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Alonzo Delano's 
California Correspondence 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

Alonzo Delano's 
California Correspondence 

Being letters hitherto uncollected from the Ottawa (Illinois) 

Free Trader and the New Orleans True Delta, 1849-1852. 

Edited with an Introduction and 

Notes by Irving McKee. Maps by Stewart Mitchell. 

Decorations by Harry O. Diamond 


Sacramento, California 





23373 d! Ill 


As in the case of its previous publications, the Sacramento Book 
Collectors Club comes before its public with a co-operative enterprise. 
The present work owes its inception to Mr. Harold Holmes, of Oak- 
land, who first collected transcripts of Alonzo Delano's letters in 
Eastern newspapers. At the timely suggestion of Mr. Walter Stoddard, 
Mr. Holmes then very generously turned these over to the Club, 
along with various photostats of the New Orleans True Delta. Mrs. 
Allan Ottley performed the arduous task of transcribing all the letters, 
and Mrs. Edgar Sayre arranged for photographic reproduction of 
maps, illustrations, and other material. 

Of the many librarians who generously contributed, two at least 
must be named. Mr. Arthur Whitenack, of Reddick's Library, Ottawa, 
Illinois, superintended the photostating of the Free Trader letters and 
researched many local names. Miss Caroline Wenzel and her staff in 
the California State Library provided the indispensable aid which 
apparently attends every work dealing with the Golden State's history. 

To particularize our debt further would be to present a roster of 
the Club's members, all of whom extended advice and encouragement. 

The Book Committee: 

Michael Harrison 
Marion Tinling 
Irving McKee 

Table of Contents 

Tehama Block — True Delta Depot — 

Sacramento City facing xi 

Introduction xi 

1. St. Joseph, April 19, 1849 1 

2. St. Joseph, April 21, 1849 8 

3. English Grove, April 30, 1849 12 

4. Harney's Landing, May 2, 1849 15 

5. Lawson's Settlement, California, September 18, 1849 16 

6. Sacramento City, September 30, 1849 21 

7. Upper Diggings, Feather River, October 12, 1849 22 

8. Valley of the Sacramento, November 19, 1849 26 

9. Dawlytown, February 16, 1850 36 

10. Sacramento City, March 2, 1850 39 

11. Ottawa Bar, March 12, 1850 46 

12. Ottawa Bar, March 22, 1850 52 

13. Dawlytown, April 4, 1850 61 

14. Oleepa, May 8, 1850 64 

15. Oleepa, May 12, 1850 69 

16. Yateston, June 14, 1850 75 

17. Dawlytown, June 25, 1850 77 

18. Stringtown, July 22, 1850 81 

19. Stringtown, July 29, 1850 84 

20. Independence, September 1, 1850 88 

21. Independence, October 20, 1850 94 

22. Marysville, October 31, 1850 96 

23. Sacramento City, November 5, 1850 99 

24. San Francisco, November 15, 1850 101 

25. San Francisco, January 15, 1851 105 

26. San Francisco, April 1, 1851 108 

27. Grass Valley, Nevada County, June 11, 1851 112 

28. San Francisco, June 13, 1851 117 

29. Grass Valley, Sierra Nevada Quartz Mines, June 29, 1851 . 1 20 

30. San Francisco, August 1, 1851 123 

31. Sacramento City, August 6, 1851 128 

32. Grass Valley, August 30, 1851 131 

33. Grass Valley, September 29, 1851 134 

34. Shasta City, October 20, 1851 138 

35. Parkman, Ohio, June, 1 852 142 

36. Parkman, Ohio, August 1, 1852 144 

Index 149 


From Ottawa to the Platte Front End Papers 

From Nebraska to California Front End Papers 

"Upper Diggings," Feather River xxvi 

The "Gold Lake" Country xxvi 

From Lassen's Meadows to the 

Gold Diggings Back End Papers 

Tehama Block — True Delta Depot — Sacramento City. 

This illustration appeared on the front page of the New Orleans True Delta, May 1 1, 
1851. It is a copy, with modifications, of a wood engraving reproduced in the Sacramento 
Union, March 31, with the comment: "The building measures 34 feet on Front street and 
63 on J street. The apartment occupied as the True Delta Depot, originally rented for 
$1,200 per month. What its present rent is we are unable to say, but if newspaper litera- 
ture pays a profit, the rent ought to be nearly as high as formerly, as from the Depot are 
issued semi-monthly, six thousand five hundred copies of the California True Delta, the 
best paper that comes to California." 

The True Delta's chief modification of the Union's illustration was the introduction of 
figures hawking the New Orleans daily in front of the building. One of these, the later 
caption informs us, is Alonzo Delano's friend, Colonel Joseph Grant: "The figures of the 
honest miners returning from the scene of their labors, with well filled pouches hastening 
to Col. Grant's office to exchange their dust for legal coin and True Deltas — the True 
Delta agents displaying the favorite sheet, and the portly figure of the indefatigable Col. 
Grant, as he stands on the balcony with a pile of True Deltas under his left arm, while 
in his right hand he holds a copy of the latest issue, unfolded to the admiring gaze of the 
returned miners — are all sketched to the life." 


"Sixty, seventy, or eighty years ago, Old Block needed no intro- 
duction to his public." Thus begins an account of Alonzo Delano 1 
which is at once definitive and sympathetically humorous. 2 The 
present editor acknowledges at the outset a considerable debt to the 
late Ezra Dane, who first properly introduced California's genial and 
whimsical Forty-Niner to the twentieth century. With charm and 
delicacy Dane invoked the magnificent nose, in spite — or because — 
of which Old Block became a prodigy fondly cherished throughout 
the State and a citizen deeply respected in Grass Valley. 

Delano was born July 2, 1806, at Aurora, New York, the tenth 
of the eleven children of Dr. Frederick Delano and his wife, Joanna 
Doty. The worthy physician was himself a great-grandson of Jona- 
than De La Noye, an offspring of French Huguenots. De La Noye, 
in turn, was the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Franklin 
Delano Roosevelt. Thus our humorist can be termed a third cousin, 
twice removed, of the thirty-second President. And for three cen- 
turies the members of this prolific clan generally pronounced the 
name Delano as did the Roosevelts. 3 

But Alonzo knew nothing of his most illustrious American rela- 
tives; as Dane puts it, "he was the plainest of plain Americans." 
Educated in the local academy, he embarked at the age of fifteen 
upon a career of counter-jumping which took him to various frontier 
settlements of Ohio and Indiana. When he revisited his native 
Aurora in 1830 to woo and wed Mary Burt, he was a lean young 
man, some five feet ten inches in height, with brown hair and blue 
eyes — and a conspicuous nose. 4 He later recalled his amatory suc- 
cess with typical self -deprecation and gallantry: "I fooled one good 
looking girl, and pulled the wool over her eyes in such a way as to 
make her believe I was a handsome young scamp, and she took me 
for better or worse, and is now the mother of my children." 5 These 

1 Pronounced DELLano. 

2 G. Ezra Dane, ed., Alonzo Delano's Pen-Knife Sketches, or Chips of the Old Block 
(San Francisco, 1934), v-xxii. 

3 Joel A. Delano, Genealogy, History, and Alliances of the American House of Delano, 
1621 to 1899 (New York, 1899), 294-505. The town of Delano in Kern County, however, 
is pronounced DeLAYno, although named in 1873 after another of Alonzo's cousins, 
Columbus Delano (1809-1896), Secretary of the Interior under President Grant. Erwin 
A. Gudde, California Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary (Berkeley, 1949). 

4 Marion V. Conaway, Delano's neighbor at Grass Valley, 1870-1874, in a letter to Milton 
J. Ferguson, March 13, 1919, Ms. in the California State Library. See also the caricature 
by Charles Nahl in Pen-Knife Sketches, frontispiece. 

5 Alonzo Delano, Across the Plains and Among the Diggings (New York, 1936), 9-10. 
This was originally published as Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings (Auburn and 
Buffalo, 1854). 


last, a son named Fred and a daughter Harriet, were born about 
1833 and 1843 respectively, probably at South Bend, Indiana, 
where Delano conducted a general store. July, 1848, found him at 
Ottawa, Illinois, presumably engaged in the same occupation; his 
social and fraternal success here is indicated by the fact that he was 
Noble Grand, or first officer, of the original Ottawa Lodge of the 
Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Here he might have remained, 
except for two decisive circumstances: he was afflicted with con- 
sumption, and gold had been discovered in California: 

My constitution had suffered sad inroads by disease incident to western 
climate, and my physician frankly told me, that a change of residence and 
more bodily exertion was absolutely necessary to effect a radical change 
in my system — in fact, that my life depended upon such a change, and I 
finally concluded to adopt his advice. About this time, the astonishing 
accounts of the vast deposits of gold in California reached us, and besides 
the fever of the body, I was suddenly seized with the fever of the mind 
for gold; and in hopes of receiving a speedy cure for the ills both of body 
and mind, I turned my attention "westward ho!" and immediately com- 
menced making arrangements for my departure." 7 

Such was the spirit of this Argonaut, who fancied the man-killing 
California mining country as a health resort. 

A "California Company" had been formed at Dayton, a village 
situated a few miles above Ottawa on the Fox River, under the com- 
mand of "Captain" Jesse Green. St. Joseph, Missouri, was to be the 
company's first place of rendezvous. Being a man of some substance, 
Delano purchased cattle and a wagon, dispatched the first across 
country under hired escort, and shipped the second by water to St. 
Joseph. In addition he engaged three young Ottawans, Matthew 
Harris, Robert Brown, and Eben Smith, to assist him on the journey 
and to repay him for their share of supplies and equipment with one 
half the profit they would earn during the first year away from home 
— "a contract which was then common." Thereupon, with Harris, 
Brown, Smith, and a fourth Ottawan named Isaac H. Fredenburg 
as "the companions of my mess," Delano bade farewell to wife and 
children on April 5, 1849, and proceeded by wagon to Peru, Illinois, 
a day's ride down the Illinois River. That evening they boarded the 
steamer Revolution for St. Louis. 8 

How or when Delano first manifested journalistic propensities we 
shall probably never know. Certain it is, however, that before his 

6 Mary Delano Fletcher, M.D. (1830-1914), a god-daughter of Delano, suggested the 
birth dates of his children and the nature of his illness in an undated letter to James L. 
Gillis, Ms. in the California State Library. Harriet was nine years old in 1852. Pen-Knife 
Sketches, 58. For his Ottawa lodge, see Ottawa: Old and New, a Complete History of 
Ottawa, Illinois (Ottawa, 1912-1914), 156-157. 

7 Across the Plains, 1. 8 Ibid., 1, 107. 


departure he agreed with the brothers William and Moses Osman, 
proprietors of the Ottawa weekly Free Trader, to write a "Califor- 
nia Correspondence" in exchange for one or more mail subscrip- 
tions. Besides penning the letters, he kept a journal which also 
appeared, in part, in the Free Trader, and he later simultaneously 
maintained a second correspondence with the New Orleans True 
Delta. The journal formed the basis of Delano's second book, Life 
on the Plains and Among the Diggings ( 1854). But the thirty-six 
letters, of which he evidently did not retain copies, contain matter 
of such interest as to deserve rescue from the newspaper files in 
which they have lain, buried and forgotten, for more than a hundred 

Dating from April 19, 1849, to August 1, 1852, they relate 
graphically the events of the river voyage to St. Joseph, the hazard- 
ous overland journey, and the sojourns in Sacramento, the mines, 
San Francisco, and points north. The saving grace of humor, for 
which Delano was later to achieve fame under his nom de plume, is 
present in judicious quantities, but the letters are essentially serious 
and realistic. For our correspondent was keenly aware that his pub- 
lic consisted of hardhanded farmers and merchants who looked for 
an accurate report of the pains as well as the pleasures of the adven- 
ture. He thus turns appropriately from a sparkling narrative of 
coffee-making on an overcrowded river steamboat to the death by 
cholera of a member of a Virginia company: "The first use made of 
the spade that was taken to turn up the golden sands of California, 
was to bury one of their own companions amid the rocky bluffs of 
the Missouri" (April 19). 

Scientific historians of the Great Gold Rush may discover little 
that is essentially new in the letters, but aficionados will detect an 
authentic flavor of considerable value. For here we see the Forty- 
Niners close up, in their broadbrimmed hats, their checked and 
woolen shirts, and their high boots. They are a patriotic lot, ready 
to chase all foreigners — whether Indian, Mexican, or British — out 
of their own California (in which they had not yet set foot). But 
they are also peaceable and respectable, or as Delano writes, "they 
are almost entirely composed of energetic, well-informed, resolute 
law-and-order men, who have characters at home, and who cannot 
at once depart from the habits and mental training from childhood 
of a civilized and moral community" (April 21 ). Like Delano, and 
like later generations of American voyagers, they yearn continually 
for mail from "the States;" upon quitting St. Joseph for the Indian 
country, our correspondent poignantly notes : "I got no letters from 
home and have not received the least word from any of my friends 
since I left, and now, probably, shall not" (April 30). Ten months 
of toil and danger without a word from Ottawa lay ahead; only a 
vision as of the Promised Land sustained him and his fellows. 


The Dayton (Illinois) Company, with which Delano had cast his 
lot, committed two costly errors. In attempting to follow the "Ne- 
maha Cut-off" some distance north of St. Joseph, it got lost, and in- 
stead of saving time fell eight or ten days behind those who from the 
start had stuck to the St. Joseph Road. Three harrowing weeks after 
having crossed the Missouri, the train at last found the Road, only 
to encounter two more weeks of cold and rainy weather which be- 
numbed the emigrants' fingers "while pitching tents, guarding cattle, 
preparing meals, gathering fuel so scantily distributed, and a thou- 
sand et ceteras" (October 12). To top it all, Delano became ill and 
feverish from exposure and had to ride the wagon for almost a week. 
For once he lost faith, temporarily, in the male humanity around 
him, denouncing to Mary Delano "the narrow-minded ribaldry — 
the ceaseless strife which is constantly marring the tranquility of 
such a crowd — a mass of men in which each individual acts inde- 
pendent of all the rest, caring for none but himself, which renders it 
most insufferable" (September 13). He recovered just in time to 
reconcile himself to eighty-eight days of burning sun and sand 
across what is now Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada, where 
"the utmost vigilance is required to keep marauding bands of In- 
dians from stealing or maiming your cattle." 

At the Humboldt River the company committed what Delano 
considered its second serious mistake — pursuing the Lassen Trail, 
"by which we lost three weeks' time in getting in, and on account of 
which we ran short of provisions and had to pass four hundred miles 
through hostile Indians that kept us on the lookout day and night" 
(October 12). But "Lawson's," the settlement (like the trail) 
founded by Peter Lassen, was now only three weeks away, via 
Fandango Pass, the Pit River, and the Sacramento. Delano arrived 
there intact on September 17, reporting to his wife that "my health 
is as good as it ever was, and I can endure any amount of fatigue." 

But this satisfaction did not suffice: "Any man who makes a trip 
by land to California deserves to find a fortune" (October 12) ; like 
many another, Delano was understandably chagrined when the for- 
tune did not immediately materialize. Disappointment had vent in 
observations unfavorable to the Sacramento Valley, such as: "I 
would not exchange a good farm on one of our rich prairies for the 
whole of it" (September 30); he disliked the regular late-summer 
drought and could see little prospect of agricultural wealth in all 
California. (Three years later he manfully confessed how wrong he 
had been about this.) His wealth now consisted, apparently, of a 
wagon, a yoke of oxen, and the sum of four dollars. Never lacking 
in friends, however, he borrowed two hundred dollars from Dr. M. 
B. Angle, who had prospered in the mines, and bought a load of 
provisions which he "designed to sell or live upon" until he could 
succeed at mining. In company with F. C. Pomeroy, another old 


acquaintance, he set out on October 1 for the "upper diggings" of 
the Feather River. At Dawlytown, adjoining Bidwell Bar on the 
South Fork, Delano and Pomeroy opened a store on the 10th. 9 

News went to Ottawa of deflated mining and inflated prices, the 
latter enabling the partners to show a profit of six hundred dollars 
in two weeks. On October 25 Delano drove back to Sacramento to 
replenish their stock, but torrential rains caused the loss of an ox in 
fording the Yuba River and prolonged the return trip by six weeks, 
three of which he passed at "Mud Hill" near Oroville. 10 His letter of 
November 19 is replete with vivid details of that hard season, when 
poverty-stricken miners by the hundreds underwent exposure to the 
elements, malnutrition, and disease. Back at Dawlytown, he found 
the camp largely deserted, Dame Rumor having lured the emigrants 
to the South Fork's upper reaches. A bout with the ague detained 
Delano for three weeks; then on January 2, 1850, he set out with 
Pomeroy and two others for the latest El Dorado. Laborious ascents 
through rain and snow brought them to two bars in the neighbor- 
hood of Stringtown, one of which they named Ottawa; in accord- 
ance with a new miners' "law," they commenced working the claims 
within ten days of discovery. 11 

At Mud Hill, Delano had met and been host to "Colonel" Joseph 
Grant, versatile agent of the New Orleans Daily True Delta and a 
veteran of the upper diggings. In February a gracious letter and a 
bundle of True Deltas — latest news from the States — arrived at 
Stringtown from Grant, now in Sacramento. The letter asked Del- 
ano to undertake a California Correspondence for the benefit of a 
vast and expectant Louisiana public; his enthusiastic reply of Feb- 
ruary 16 is the first of eighteen letters published in the True Delta. 
But the thrill of solicited authorship was nothing compared to the 
receipt, late that month, of his first letter from Illinois, from Mary 
Delano: "This I walked fifteen miles [to Dawlytown] to get when I 
heard of the arrival of the Express a week ago, and I would have 
walked a hundred for another with the greatest of pleasure" (March 
2 ) . He returned to Ottawa Bar, where the company now apparently 
consisted of nine members, with redoubled vigor: 

More labor, more exposure; but "veni, vidi, vici." We took our rations 
again, and axes, and set out. The logs were cut and rolled together, 
shingles split out of the beautiful pine and put on the roof, a large fire- 
place and chimney built, stools, shelves, bedsteads, and door made, &c, 
&c, all of which occupied about ten days, and it rained most of the time, 
while two more of the company were engaged in getting up provisions. At 
last we were comfortably settled in the best quarters which I have found 
in California, with enough to eat, such as it is, a good roof over us, and 

9 Across the Plains, 52, 109-112. 10 Ibid., 113-119. » Ibid., 119-122. 


any amount of hard work before us, and perhaps not a dollar in either 
bar to repay our toil, or it may be a fortune (March 22) . 

High water prevented mining operations in April, and Delano 
visited mushrooming Sacramento, and then Marysville, where a 
thousand newcomers inhabited buildings of cloth and wood. Five 
months before "but a single adobe house" had marked the place. 
Here he witnessed a jury trial of two men caught red-handed in 
grand larceny; they were sentenced "each to receive one hundred 
lashes on the bare back, and, if found in town in the morning, a fine 
of a thousand dollars and two years' labor in the chain gang of San 
Francisco. Sentence was immediately executed" (April 4). As he 
adds, Delano himself was nearly "strapped" at the time, possessing 
a total capital of only thirty-two dollars — "enough to sustain me 
one week, as the price of board then ranged." Nothing if not adapta- 
able, he set himself up in Marysville as a miniature painter ("having 
a little skill in drawing"); in three weeks, at an ounce a head, he 
cleared four hundred dollars. Half of this went down the drain of 
speculation in "paper town lots." The rest, in partnership with one 
T. E. Gray of Florida, he invested in a real estate claim on the 
Feather about twenty miles above Marysville. Here, adjoining two 
villages of Indians, one of them called Oleepa, Gray and Delano 
determined to lay out a town, open a tent store and a tent hotel, and 
await customers. In the course of these labors our correspondent 
exercised his talents as artist and physician (the latter a family in- 
heritance) to win popularity among the scantily clad Oleepans: 12 

There are about fifty naked wretches sitting on the ground in front of my 
building, in the sun, laughing, singing, and taking comfort, all playing the 
same tune and beating time with their hands on their bodies, for it is 
slap, slap, slap, as the tormenting mosquitoes bore into their naked, 
copper-colored hides (May 8). 

A few days later he penned a semi-humorous account of how he 
successfully treated an inflammation behind Chief Oleepa's ear with 
horse liniment and an opium pill; this and other cures gained him 
such credit that he was able to report exhaustively on intimate ob- 
servations of Maidu architecture, interior decoration, culinary arts, 
religion, dancing, dialects, burial rites, courtship, marriage, morals, 
gambling, and superstitions (May 12). 

A letter dated June 14 is devoted to the fabulous Jim Beck- 
wourth, Indian-fighter, scout, and explorer, who discovered a low- 
altitude pass over the Sierra subsequently named for him. Another 
(June 25) recounts the strenuous but fruitless adventures of his 
friends, Colonel Grant and Captain John Freeland, in the Feather 

12 Ibid., 127-128. 


River diggings the previous November; it closes with a narrative of 
a bloody battle between emigrants and Indians in Nevada one sum- 
mer day of 49. 

The Oleepa business ended in financial failure. 13 "During the 
last days of June I had my affairs in the Valley arranged and came 
here to superintend the working of this claim," Delano writes 
from Stringtown (July 22), in introduction of a series of narrow 
escapes — from a falling tree, a steep mountain precipice, and a 
scorpion's sting in the night. A week later the humor waxes mel- 
lower as he describes the snug little cabin at Stringtown, its old- 
fashioned fireplace, bake kettle, and yeast pail, with which he is 
particularly familiar since "I am the cook." Other furnishings in- 
clude a library — a volume of Shakespeare, Goldsmith's Vicar of 
Wakefield, a work of natural philosophy, and a geological treatise — 
all of which he laboriously carried from St. Joseph. An old violin 
hangs on the wall, and thereby also hangs the sad tale of old Turner, 
Henry County (Illinois) fiddler, who died in January and now lies 
buried in the hillside above the cabin. Delano serves as juror in a 
civil action, weighing the conflicting claims of two mining compan- 
ies; the verdict in favor of one is acquiesced in by the other without 
a murmur (July 29). 

His own group, now comprising "four large messes or companies," 
invested "over thirteen thousand dollars in labor" at Stringtown, but 
no treasure revealed itself. Meanwhile the notorious Gold Lake 
fever swept the diggings: up in the mountains northeast of String- 
town, some forty miles as the crow flies, there was a mountain full 
of gold and a lake lined with it. Miners by the hundreds girded their 
loins for one more desperate sortie, and expeditions by the score 
converged upon the wilds north of the Yuba. 14 Early in August, 
Delano hopefully formed a partnership with some friends at Marys- 
ville in a trading post to be established in the Gold Lake region. 
Having secured a stock of goods, a junior clerk (American), and a 
muleteer (Mexican), he set out on August 14. The journey over 
mountain trails occupied about two weeks, in the course of which 
three mules vanished, our adventurer dismissed the Mexican for 
insubordination, and precipices claimed their moiety of the goods. 
But by September, Delano had established himself in a mountain 
camp on Nelson Creek called Independence Bar, with a thousand 
or two potential patrons around him. 15 

"In this pure and bracing atmosphere there is no sickness," he 
announces to readers of the Free Trader, and then relates the hard- 
ships of newly-arrived emigrants who have barely survived the 
droughts and snows of 1 850, only to face more formidable perils : 

13 Ibid., 146. 

14 Gudde, "Gold Lake," California Place Names. 

15 Across the Plains, 146-151. 


We shall see more suffering, more destitution this winter than there ever 
has been, and although there is gold in the mountains, the indefatigable 
attempt to get it of those who came a year ago without success, whereso- 
ever courage, strength and manhood have been used to their full extent, 
surely should convince you at home that it is folly to forsake a living 
business at home and come here in the desperate search of gold. 

Moreover, affairs in the Valley have deteriorated; "chill, fevers, 
ague, and flux" prevail, and the sanguinary Squatter Riots in Sacra- 
mento, August 14 and 15, involving the proponents and opponents 
of Sutter's Mexican land title, resulted in the killing of seven men, 
including the Sheriff, and the wounding of a half dozen others 
(September l). 1(i The gloom thickens in the ensuing weeks: "The 
miners have been mostly frightened away by a succession of stormy 
weather, rain in the valleys and snow in the mountains ... I went 
out and rocked the cradle an hour or so for pastime, and got only 
twenty-five cents; so I gave it up." He completely (but not irrevo- 
cably) loses faith in California: "Oregon will be the greatest of the 
two." The only enjoyments left in life are sociable repasts with the 
miners and hours devoted to sketching the scenery and contemplat- 
ing an excursion to Gold Lake and Gold Mountain (October 20). 
This last is the subject of a letter full of geological observation (but- 
tressed by the library) and unfulfilled yearning for treasure. But the 
end of October finds him back at Marysville, "in the throng of 
civilized man — a washed, combed and shaven hombre" (October 
31); the next week he is in Sacramento, "a citizen of the world with 
nothing to do" — but report on the living and dying during the city's 
great cholera epidemic (November 5). 17 The next day he is in San 

In this Phoenix of the Pacific (it had already burned down four 
times), 18 Delano becomes " a dweller on Long Wharf, and a dealer 
in squashes and cabbages" — and correspondent for another news- 
paper. This was the California Daily Courier, which, during the 
next two and a half years, published the jeux d' esprit to be collected 
in 1853 as Pen-Knife Sketches, or Chips of the Old Block, his first 
book. 19 According to one contemporary journalist, he was well paid 
for the correspondence; more certainly, these refinements of his ex- 
periences in the upper diggings — for such they largely were — 
account for much of his subsequent reputation as co-founder with 
"John Phoenix" (George Horatio Derby) of California humor, 
"fluttering," as Ezra Dane analyzes it, "between absurdity and 

1G Sacramento Transcript, August 15-16, 1850. 
» History of Sacramento (Oakland, 1880), 56-57. 

18 Frank Soule, John H. Gihon, and James Nisbet, Annals of San Francsico (New York, 
1855), 241, 274, 277, 290. 

19 San Francisco California Daily Courier, June 12, 1851. 


pathos." 20 The sojourn in San Francisco also resulted in three letters 
celebrating with appropriate irony the luxuries of city life as con- 
trasted to the enforced asceticism of Independence Bar and envi- 
rons. A notable preliminary was the steamboat voyage down the 
Sacramento River financed by the genial Colonel Grant — "Every- 
thing in tip-top style, cabins, tables, staterooms, magnificent; cook, 
steward, chamber-boy, and waiter, civil and obliging, and the cap- 
tain a gentleman." Then comes the spectacle of the Bay, jammed 
with ships whose masts form "a vast forest of dead pines;" streets 
full of people wearing respectable clothes; "carts, drays, candy 
stands, bookracks, newsboys, and the Lord knows what all" — and 
a woman! With Grant he visits the barque Constance, Captain John 
Barry, out of Salem; fries a mess of griddle cakes, and hears Captain 
Welsh's tales of the Ryukyu Islands (November 15). 

Weighing two seasons in the diggings, Delano finds he has noth- 
ing to show but a farm at Oleepa and memories. He warns his New 
Orleans readers of imminent deflation in San Francisco (January 
15, 1851 ) and his Ottawa public of inflated tales from the placers. 
But after four months he alters his view of business prospects in the 
new seaport: "I think it must become one of the most important 
cities on the Pacific." If only his wife and children were with him, he 
would prefer living here "to any town east of the Rocky Moun- 
tains." He even promises not to return to Ottawa if Editor Osman 
will pass the hat and pay the three dependent Delanos' passage. 
(Osman apparently preferred to have his correspondent come 
back.) He describes the Oriental inhabitants, and Colonel Joseph 
Watkins of Virginia, who knew Jefferson and Marshall in the flesh, 
and he reports on the new (to California) science of quartz mining 
which promises to supplant the old placer (April 1 ) . 

Quartz mining brings him back for a brief visit to the diggings. 
In March he became San Francisco agent for the Sierra Nevada 
Quartz Mining Company; 21 in June he locates a vein of quartz at 
Grass Valley for the company, sells out his stock of merchandise, 
and invests the proceeds in the vein. "The desire for wealth brought 
me here," he writes from Grass Valley, "and the weary search for 
gold hath made misery often my companion; yet, although I have 
not been completely successful and have run many risks, I am not 
discouraged and will still plod on." Thereupon follows an account 
of quartz prospects in the vicinity (June 11), filling a column and a 
half in the True Delta. Meanwhile a fire devastated San Francisco 
in May; 22 having lost over twelve hundred dollars, Delano castigates 

20 Pen-Knife Sketches, iv, x-xi. 

21 His business card reads: "Sierra Nevada Quartz Mining Company — A. Delano, Agent 
— Office, opposite New World Hotel, on Long Wharf, where a large number of specimens 
can be inspected." San Francisco Pacific News, March 11-21, 1851. 

12 This was the fifth of six "great fires," on December 24, 1849; May 4, June 14, and 
September 17, 1850; May 4 and June 22, 1851. Soule et al., Annals, 241, 274, 277, 290, 
329, 345. 


the criminal element which he believes responsible. Then, tempo- 
rarily re-established in his San Francisco office, he effectively de- 
fends himself against some vicious gossip: 

As your country [Ottawa] is great for reports, I have been amused — 
not offended — at one I recently heard respecting myself and to this effect, 
"that Delano provided nothing for his family when he left home, that he 
has sent them nothing since he has been here, and that he traveled across 
the plains with another woman." As for the first two, it may spoil a good 
story when I refer the lovers of the dark side to my own family for the 
truth of the two first counts, and for the third, I simply ask those who 
traveled in our train to state the facts. As for women, I did save the life of 
one here in San Francisco, and gave her shelter and protection after the 
fire for two or three days, until she got a situation with Captain Sutter's 
family at one thousand dollars a year; and could you hear her story, 
it would be that of respect, and that even here a man may do a good deed 
which he may not blush to own. Except for this one, who by circum- 
stances was thrown upon my protection by a course of events — an 
interesting tale of itself — when a man should blush not to do as I did, and 
when I was encouraged by pious and good people of both sexes, there 
are not three other females in California that even know my name; and I 
do not blush, nor need any of my friends blush for any act of mine since 
I have been in this God-forsaken land, nor will they have occasion to. 

From slanderers he turns to thieves and murderers who provoked 
the San Francisco Vigilance Committee of 1851; he applauds its 
necessary usurpation of powers maladministered by a corrupt ex- 
ecutive and judiciary. Felonies are again out of hand, but reports 
of rampant prostitution are exaggerated ( June 13). 

Around Grass Valley the peaceable miners, tending seven crush- 
ing mills, organized Vigilance Committees of their own: "One was 
formed here last night, and we are ready to pay our respects to all 
scoundrels who may be inclined to pay us a visit." Prices are falling, 
but the miners raise their own vegetables. "We have a daily stage 
and mail passing through from Sacramento City to Nevada City, 
although a year ago a road was not opened, and the Indians were 
killing and driving off the whites" (June 29) . A Vigilance Commit- 
tee has commenced drastic operations in Sacramento (August 1). 
Another "great fire," San Francisco's sixth in three years, has finally 
wiped out Delano's office there, but he consoles himself with a 
monthly salary of three hundred dollars now tendered him by the 
Sierra Nevada Quartz Mining Company in exchange for his serv- 
ices as its Grass Valley superintendent. He bids farewell to the Free 
Trader with a facetious epistle : "I find my time so much occupied 
that I shall be unable to continue my correspondence with your 
paper, and of course must relinquish all claim on you for sending 


your paper either to me or to my friends on my account . . . There is 
lots of news, but the papers have it all, and letter-writers are getting 
below par. — Money is scarce and taters is fell" (August 6). 

But there are five more letters to the True Delta. He reveals the 
new wonders of irrigation as applied to quartz mining: "Rivers and 
creeks are turned from their channels and carried by canals along 
mountains, over hills, across gulches, by means of aqueducts, for 
forty miles or more, thus distributing the indispensable element to 
the miner for separating the gold from the earth and opening to man 
rich deposits which could not be worked without water." An esti- 
mated two thousand miners are at work in the Grass Valley region, 
attracting an unspecified number of another kind of gold-digger: 
"it too often happens here that females who have borne unexcep- 
tionable characters at home, adopt the code of morals of the coun- 
try and instead of endeavoring to stem the current, float along with 
it" (August 30). The last letter from Grass Valley notes improve- 
ments in machinery and ore-refining, as well as the presence of dis- 
tinguished foreign visitors and the fact that the Sierra Nevada 
Quartz Mining Company, Delano's employer, has sold out to the 
Rocky Bar Company (September 29). Fancy-free again, he takes 
stagecoach passage to Shasta City, some 175 miles north of Sacra- 
mento. With indefatigable enthusiasm he reports mysteries of the 
Valley and mountains newly opened to civilization, or soon to be: 
"The plain was dotted with large herds of elk, antelope, and deer 
which in seeming security scarcely moved beyond gunshot from us, 
barely raising their heads with curiosity as we passed, as if to en- 
quire what the devil we were doing on their stamping ground, while 
we on our part were smacking our lips with the poetic thought of a 
broiled steak from their haunches." He studies the funeral rites of 
the Colusa Indians and speculates on the coming conquest of the 
northern Coast Range : "the time will soon come when the attention 
of the indomitable Yankee will be diverted from the eastern moun- 
tains toward the West, and then the tales of suffering, of toil and 
blood, of savage warfare and Christian cupidity, will find a locale in 
the broad, broken belt between the Pacific Ocean and the Valley of 
the Sacramento." His imagination bridges the gap in the road from 
Shasta to Shasta Butte (now Yreka) and he contemplates unlimited 
treasure just out of reach: "In the neighborhood of Shasta I ob- 
served vast quantities of auriferous quartz, more than can be ex- 
hausted in hundreds of years, and I also saw many specimens which 
were brought in from Shasta Butte City, from Scott and Trinity 
rivers and their affluents, indeed in all directions, north and east- 
ward, for an hundred miles or more" (October 20). 

Early in the spring of 1852, Delano boarded ship for New York, 
via Nicaragua, for a family reunion at Aurora. Here his wife and 
children met him on May 1. But "ill health turned my thoughts 


again to California," 2:t and the next month finds him at Parkman, 
Ohio, whence he addresses the True Delta once more on the subject 
of the Golden State: "California is indeed a great country, with a 
beautiful climate and fertile soil, and in this last particular I have 
been compelled to change my opinion." He also feels compelled, 
however, to warn emigrants against the danger of surplus agricul- 
tural production, the scarcity of minable gold, and the ever-present 
hardships of the westward journey by whatever route: "I would 
rather take a family to California by the land route, provided the 
emigration did not exceed ten thousand, than through Central 
America, with the present facilities of traveling up the San Juan 
River and to San Juan del Sur" (June, 1852). His last California 
Correspondence, also from Parkman, displays most confidence in 
the new State: "the elements of prosperity are at work which, in an 
unparalleled short period in the history of nations, must place it 
among the most prominent States of the Union for wealth and ex- 
tensive business operations." The final letter also foreshadows a new 
connection which was to sustain him for the next four years : "Liv- 
ingston and Wells are known among the successful pioneers of ex- 
presses, and I see by the public papers that they are extending their 
operations by association to California under the name of Wells, 
Fargo and Company . . . Some of those connected with them I have 
known from childhood, and I speak understandingly when I say that 
more energetic, faithful, and perfectly responsible men do not exist 
in any express company than these" (August 1 ). Delano failed to 
mention — perhaps because it might have given his letter an air of 
bias — the fact that he had been appointed Grass Valley agent for 
this company, organized by two fellow Aurorans, Henry Wells and 
Edwin B. Morgan, and William G. Fargo of nearby Auburn. 24 

Thus end the letters which concern us here. While they reposed in 
the dust-gathering files of the Free Trader and the True Delta, their 
author prospered in the California mountain town of his adoption. 
The Grass Valley Telegraph advertised him as agent for "Wells, 
Fargo & Co.'s Express and Banking Exchange Office, opposite 
Beatty House, Main St." Two events distinguished his tenure. One 
morning during the financial panic of 1855 a throng of excited de- 
positors pressed against the agency door while Delano pondered a 
message from his superior, the San Francisco manager, to suspend 
payment. But when he opened the door at the appointed hour, ac- 
cording to the Telegraph, "he mounted the counter, and told the 
people to 'Come on, he would pay out to the last dollar, and if that 
was not enough his own property should go.' This, however, proved 
unnecessary, as he had more than sufficient on hand. The confidence 

23 Pen-Knife Sketches, 58. 

24 See the articles on Wells, Morgan, and Fargo in the Dictionary of American Biography. 


in the house was fully restored." 25 The timorous San Francisco 
manager was replaced and, two weeks later, the citizens of Grass 
Valley elected Delano their treasurer. 

The second event was a fire which swept the town on September 
1 3 and 14 following. Not a single one of the three hundred buildings 
which had comprised the business section remained intact. In later 
years the old inhabitants were to remember as the turning point in 
their despair an incident vividly narrated by Ezra Dane: 

Something was moving down the hill from the west end of town. It was 
a frame shanty, on rollers. And who was the figure in the rumpled frock 
coat directing its progress? A profile view identified him as Old Block, 
setting an example of California courage for the citizens. A willing crowd 
gathered to assist in backing the building up against a brick vault, which 
was hot but still standing among the ruins where the express agency had 
been. A few minutes later a ten-foot scantling was nailed over the door, 
roughly lettered "Wells, Fargo & Co.'s Express Office" — and Old Block, 
so the county history tells us, "stood smiling behind his counter, amid 
the smouldering ruins and with the ground still warm beneath his feet, 
ready, as he said, 'to attend to business.' " 26 

Henceforth, with the honorary title of "Captain" (in deference 
to his leadership in '49), Delano somehow symbolized municipal 
progress. But his fame was more than local. The editors of the 
Sacramento Union collected his California Courier pieces under the 
title Pen-Knife Sketches, with illustrations by Charles Nahl, in 
1853; a second edition, without the illustrations, came out the fol- 
lowing year. Also in 1854 Delano's journal appeared, with revi- 
sions, as Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings. And finally, 
the same year, he became somewhat ludicrously associated with the 
peripatetic dancer, Lola Montez, who, after entertaining San Fran- 
cisco with her art and her history as a former mistress of Bohemian 
royalty, had come to Grass Valley to live with a newly acquired 
husband. Too much the prima donna for her neighbors, however, 
Lola was soon being spoofed not only in the Valley but farther 
abroad — with Old Block as her "private secretary": "The Grass 
Valley Telegraph informs us," the San Francisco Golden Era glee- 
fully informed the world, "that 'the divine Lola,' in company with 
our friend 'Old Block' and others, have gone to the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains." Two weeks later, according to the same journal, Del- 
ano forwarded a complete account of his experiences in Lola's 
employ. After the party crossed Donner Pass and encamped for the 
night, disaster struck: "Lola found vent, either for an exuberance 
of feeling or indignation, at the supposed want of consideration for 

25 Grass Valley Telegraph, February 27, 1855, as quoted in Pen-Knife Sketches, xv. 

2 6 Pen-Knife Sketches, xvi. Cf. History of Nevada County (Oakland, 1880), 66. 


her rank manifested by some of the party, by quarreling with her 
'private secretary 'during the entire of one long, cold night; and the 
next morning a solitary horseman might have been seen descending 
the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas, in the direction of Grass 
Valley. That man was the author of 'Chips.' " The party's cook also 
deserted, along with the pack mules, so that a very angry and 
hungry Lola walked into Grass Valley twenty-four hours later. 27 In 
various forms the story was retold for some years. 

Delano's prose and verse meandered through a number of pub- 
lications, including the Union, the California Farmer, the Golden 
Era, the Telegraph, the Hesperian, Hutchings' California Magazine, 
Edwin F. Bean's History & Directory of Nevada County, and even 
the New York Times. In 1856 another collection entitled Old 
Block's Sketch Book, or Tales of California Life and a feu d' esprit 
called The Idle and Industrious Miner came off the press. The fol- 
lowing year he published A Live Woman in the Mines, or Pike 
County Ahead! A Local Play in Two Acts. Although Delano origi- 
nally composed this drama, apparently, for Lola Montez (perhaps 
as a peace offering), no record comes to hand of her having ap- 
peared in it; one historian indicates that it was performed in its 
author's time and another hails it as "the most distinctively Cali- 
fornian of the plays produced by the golden era." 28 Finally, a pam- 
phlet contrasting the old and new ways of going to California 
appeared with the title, The Central Pacific, or '49 and '69, by Old 

Delano became a Master Mason and a member of the Town 
Council, and by 1856 achieved sufficient worldly success to resign 
the Wells, Fargo agency, open his own bank, and fetch his daughter 
Harriet from Ohio. Mary remained there to care for their invalid 
son, Fred, who died about a year later; she then rejoined her hus- 
band and daughter at Grass Valley. But tragedy struck the family 
again when Harriet lost her mind and had to be taken to an asylum 
near the ancestral home in New York. This sad circumstance prob- 
ably accounts for Delano's trip of 1866 to Nicaragua, whence he 
dispatched his humorless "Nicaragua Letters" to the Union. Five 
years after his return, in 1871, his patient wife died. 29 

With a cashier to manage the bank and a Chinaman to maintain 
his house, Captain Delano at sixty-five returned to his early faith 
in Grass Valley quartz mining, which he now backed with consider- 
able investments. In 1872, at Truckee, he married Miss Maria 
Harmon of Warren, Ohio, a handsome woman in her early forties; 

27 San Francisco Golden Era, July 23 and August 6, 1854. 

28 George R. MacMinn, The Theater of the Golden Era in California (Caldwell, Idaho, 
1941), 251. Cf. Sacramento Democratic State Journal, January 3, 1856, and Hubert H. 
Bancroft, History of California (7 vols., San Francisco, 1884-1890), VI, 157. 

29 Mary Delano Fletcher, op. cit.; Pen-Knife Sketches, xvi-xix; Journal of Proceedings of 
the Grand Lodge of the State of California (2 vols., San Francisco, 1857), I, 362; 55, 185. 


the Grass Valley Union was pleased to "chronicle the permanent 
addition to our society of a lady so well known and highly esteemed 
in our community." The following year he lectured at Hamilton 
Hall, Grass Valley, on the community's glowing future in mining, 
but his bank fell into difficulty in 1874. Suddenly his health broke, 
and he died on September 8 of that year, bidding Maria farewell 
with kind and courageous words : "Give my love to all my friends. 
Tell them that I was not afraid to die, and that I left the earth with- 
out ill feeling towards anybody." Almost the entire population of 
Grass Valley turned out for the funeral and burial, beside Mary 
Delano, in Greenwood Cemetery. Although his affairs seemed un- 
promising at the time of his death, within two years enough was 
realized to pay the bank's depositors in full and to provide for his 
widow and unfortunate daughter. And in the course of the next 
sixty years the mines of Grass Valley yielded more than a hundred 
million dollars. 

"I don't suppose that California owes those hundred millions en- 
tirely to Old Block," Ezra Dane concedes, "but he deserves remem- 
brance. He was a courageous pioneer. He loved and inspired his 
fellow men. He was the first truly Californian man of letters, and 
no one has described or interpreted the human elements of the Gold 
Rush so sympathetically as he. Moreover, he was a jolly good fellow 
if ever there was one, and as John Phoenix was forced to admit 
when they met, By Jove, he did have a big nose!" 30 

The California Correspondence is here collected as it appeared 
in the Free Trader and the True Delta, with certain minor excep- 
tions. Variations in typography, punctuation, and spelling have 
generally been silently normalized. Delano was a highly literate and 
well-read man, as his quotations and publications amply prove. In his 
published correspondence, however, he was undoubtedly the victim 
of editors' and pressmen's vagaries, which it has been the endeavor 
of the present editor to correct. But in cases of doubt, such as in the 
use of "lay" for "lie" and other solecisms, the words have been left 
as originally printed, for unquestionably Old Block was no dude, 
and kept firmly in mind the value of the plain Americanisms to 
which his readers — especially those on the Illinois prairie — were 

30 Pen-Knife Sketches, xx-xxii; Grass Valley Union and Sacramento Union, September 10, 


Alonzo Delano's 
California Correspondence 

St. Joseph, April 19, 1849. 1 

Gents of the Free Trader: — This is the first infliction of a 
deck passenger and you may wish it the last, but as the fault is your 
own, I shall offer no apology, and you must e'en be content to do as 
I am doing, "take it as it comes." 

You have "seen the Elephant" 2 and know the cost of obtaining a 
sight at his Trunkship. As for me, I have scarcely obtained a view 
of his shadow yet, but if "coming events cast their shadows be- 
fore," 3 in due time I hope to get in close proximity of his mammoth 

The day I left Ottawa 4 was delightful overhead, but the soft soil 
of our beautiful prairies, hub-deep to the wagons, together with the 
pleasing antics of a baulky horse and the frequent opportunity of 
having my boots blacked with some of Nature's best — no thanks to 

1 Published in the Ottawa (Illinois) Free Trader, May 11, 1849. This was a small-town 
weekly newspaper, Democratic by persuasion, owned and edited by the brothers William 
and Moses Osman. Founded in 1840, the paper lived until 1926. William Osman (1819- 
1909) was born in Pennsylvania, first became associated with the Free Trader as a printer 
in 1840, and owned it (sometimes solely and sometimes in part) from 1848 until his 
death. Ottawa: Old and New, a Complete History of Ottawa, Illinois, 1823-1914 (Ottawa, 
1912-1914), 28. Delano's letters in the Free Trader and in the New Orleans True Delta 
were run under headlines conspicuously calling attention to their association with Cali- 

2 "When a man is disappointed in anything he undertakes, when he has seen enough, when 
he gets sick and tired of any job he may have set himself about, he has 'seen the ele- 
phant.' " George W. Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition (Chicago, 
1929; original ed., 1844), 138. William Osman had served in the Mexican War; this may 
be the experience to which Delano refers. Ottawa: Old and New, 28. Cf. p. 5. 

3 Thomas Campbell, Lochiel's Warning. 4 Thursday, April 5. Across the Plains, 1. 


the porter — as we lightened our load by jumping out into the deep, 
deep mud, proved that all was not gold that glittered. 5 At evening 
we went on board the good steamer Revolution and the next morn- 
ing left Peru on our golden voyage. 

"Hung were the heavens in black,"" and ere long a revolution 
took place overhead. I have not the least doubt that the deluge was 
occasioned by the windows of heaven being opened. It appeared to 
me that the flood gates were open now, for it literally poured; and I 
should think that twenty days of such rain would be sufficient to 
drown all the rats — two-legged as well as four, in Ottawa. We had 
an agreeable company on board, however, a good captain and crew, 
and as it rained or poured only two days and nights of the four we 
were going down the river, I can't complain. I do not intend to give 
you a sketch of the scenery along the Illinois River, as it is too fami- 
liar to the most of your readers; but I was utterly astonished at the 
vast multitude and height of the Indian mounds from Beardstown 
quite to the mouth. I have often read of them but had never formed 
an adequate idea of their number. Every prominent bluff seemed 
covered and attest that a dense population of a race, now unknown, 
once covered this beautiful region, and whose only history is writ- 
ten in these hillocks that crown the summits of the bluffs or are 
scattered over our rich prairies. 7 

Monday morning 8 dawned upon St. Louis with a washing-day 
face, and we poor miserable bipeds, as usual, had to "stand from 
under" or take a ducking. The day was a busy one, however, for, 
as an excellent boat was advertised to leave for St. Joseph that eve- 
ning, I was anxious to complete my outfit and ship my wagon on 
board of her. I therefore adopted the Sucker mode of tucking the 
ends of my nether garments into my boots, took an umbrella and in 
company with Mr. Fredenburg, 9 Mr. Thorn, 10 and some others of 
our Ottawa friends set out in search of rations. These we found ad- 
vanced in price in consequence of so many calls for California; but 
by the hour of starting we were told that in consequence of the rain 
the Embassy could not complete her lading till the following day. 

5 Cf. Shakespeare, Globe ed., The Merchant of Venice, II, vii, 65. 

6 Cf. Shakespeare, The First Part of Henry the Sixth, I, i, 1. 

7 Artificial mounds are prevalent in Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota, In- 
diana, Mississippi, Florida, Virginia, and Kentucky. Whether they were built by the 
Indians or a previous culture group is not known. John H. Cornyn, "Mound Builders and 
Mounds," Encyclopedia Americana, 1948. 8 April 9. 

9 Isaac H. Fredenburg (1815-1884), of Ottawa. More familiarly "Fred," he was one of 
the four "companions of my mess." Across the Plains, 1, 107. Born in Ulster County, 
New York, Fredenburg operated the first ferry at the junction of the Fox and Illinois 
rivers in 1834. He went to California twice, but finally settled down as a business man 
and deputy sheriff at Ottawa. Ottawa: Old and New, 129. 

10 Benjamin Kent Thorn (1829 or 1830-1905). He was born in New York State; in Cali- 
fornia he served for more than forty years as sheriff of Calaveras County, capturing many 
desperadoes, including the celebrated "Black Bart" (Charles C. Bolton). Sacramento 
Union, November 16, 1905. 


There were large numbers of emigrants in the city, but not as 
many as I expected to find from previous accounts. Some of the 
boats went out with large loads, while others had more moderate 
ones; but there is no doubt but many thousands will attempt to cross 
the plains. I met acquaintances at every turn: in fact it seems that I 
met more than I knew — is that a bull? 

On Tuesday evening, all being ready, we put out into the stream 
with three hearty cheers from over four hundred souls, which was 
returned with right good will by those on the shore, and the Em- 
bassy was plowing the "Father of Waters" loaded to the gunwale 
with passengers, whose vision rested on the golden heights of the 
Sierra Nevada or the sparkling dust in the Valley of the Sacramento. 
Besides our own half dozen souls from Ottawa there were compan- 
ies from Tecumseh, Michigan; Dayton, Ohio; Lynchburg, Virginia; 
Louisville, Kentucky; besides a right small sprinkle from all other 
places and no place in particular. 

Feeling a little aristocratic, and not wishing to see the "elephant" 
too soon, I thought I would take a cabin passage. 

"What is the fare to St. Joseph?" I asked he clerk. 

"Eight dollars, sir," was his reply. 

"Can you show me a stateroom?" 

"They are all taken — not a berth left; but we can give you a good 
comfortable mattress on the floor. You will be very, very comfort- 
able! — In fact it's just as pleasant." 

"Hem! yes, no doubt, I think I'll try the deck. How much for a 
deck passage?" 

"Three dollars, but it will be very unpleasant." 

"No matter, it will go to break in, and I may as well begin now;" 
and so I took a deck passage, and the difference in price I paid to 
insure my wagon and goods to St. Joseph. 

And now a word as to the comforts of the cabin. It is so full that 
many cannot get even a mattress to sleep on, and the long tables 
have to be set five times in succession before all can eat, and the air 
is so confined that several have left it and begged to sleep in the 
wagons on deck. 

The discomforts of the deck are pure air, a large roomy wagon 
with an excellent cover over it, plenty of buffalo skins and blankets 
to sleep on; in short, a little territory of our own which is respected 
by all, with a good chance to boil your own coffee at a public stove, 
and the privilege to eat when and how you please. It was a most 
fortunate hit for me this time, and I am now writing in my own 
wagon with as much ease and comfort as I could in your own office. 
I have repeatedly had the offer made me to swap berths, but I have 
good and sufficient reasons to be content with what I have. 

The day of our leaving, one of the Dayton (Ohio) Company had 
his leg broken by a fall on the boat. The fracture was a bad one and 


he was left at St. Louis by his companions. And another quite ser- 
ious accident occurred before starting in the Virginia Company. A 
thoughtless greenhorn wishing to display his skill with a pistol, on 
the upper deck, discharged it through the deck into the cook room 
where the ball lodged in the shoulder of one of the boys belonging 
to the boat. The ball was cut out by a surgeon, and the skillful 
marksman had his passage money returned and was set on shore to 
follow on as best he could. It has perhaps served as a lesson to 
others, and the exhibition of pistols, bowie knives, and such inno- 
cent toys are not quite so common as before. 

We entered the Missouri, twenty-five miles above St. Louis, some 
time after dark, and daylight found us taking in wood some miles 
above the mouth of the river. Now, then, came a serious question — 
who will make the coffee? Our first night had passed pleasantly, and 
all slept well upon our buffalo couch; but a bracing atmosphere ad- 
monished us that we had stomachs which needed "wooding up" in 
order to keep the engine of life in full play. 

"Give me the coffee pot," said Brown, 11 "I'll get some water." 

"I'll boil the coffee," says Fred. 12 "I'll see what chance there is at 
the stove." 

"What's the matter, Brown?" I asked as he came back with an 
empty coffee pot. 

"Well, there's no water to be had; that's settled." 

"No water?" 

"Not the first drop, unless I take river water, and that's so muddy 
nobody can use it." 

"No place at the stove — the Dutch and French have monopolized 
the whole," says Fredenburg in a pet — "there ain't a chance to light 
a pipe." 

I never wanted coffee so much in my life. I undertook to give up 
the use of tea and coffee about ten days ago, and drink cold water. 
I had an ague chill and fever the same day; so I concluded to defer 
the experiment till I got on the plains. 

"Give me the coffee pot," says I, and I went down to the pump 
with visions of flowing coffee bowls long past and gone dancing be- 
fore me. I seized the pump-handle desperately, filled my pot from 
the muddy stream, elbowed my way through the crowd of Euro- 
peans to the stove, and enquired of a mustachioed, bewhiskered 
item of mortality if he could "parlez-vous Francais?" "Oui, Mon- 
sieur" "Well, then, will you please to move your pan and give me a 
chance at the fire?" (Qu. — Did you ever read the story of the Irish- 
man and the gridiron?) "Well," says I, "I can't, but move your dish 
so that I can boil my coffee," and suiting the action to the word, I 

n Robert Brown, of Ottawa. He was one of the three young Ottawans whom Delano en- 
gaged to assist him on the overland journey and to repay him for his advances with one 
half the profit they would earn during the first year away from home. But upon arrival in 
California, Brown left Delano and never repaid him. Across the Plains, 1, 107. Cf. p. 32. 

12 Fredenburg. 


gave it a jog that made him understand what I wanted; and my 
effrontery gained me a share in the stove and a capital cup of hot 
coffee. To be sure, the mud all settled to the bottom and left the 
"simon pure" at the top. Having "got the hang of the barn," as the 
boy did of the schoolhouse, we have had no trouble since. — Did 
you ever have an appetite that would not be satisfied? O yes, you 
have been to Mexico, and know the effect of air upon your gas- 
tronomic cravings. 13 For two years past I have suffered much ill 
health, with loss of appetite, and especially for the last two months. 
But now, for the last four or five days, I am worse than a half -starved 
Indian. I've an appetite like an ant bear, and if it continues when I 
get among the Eutahs, you may get some feeling remarks about the 
exquisite flavor of a baked papoose or a roasted Indian. My health 
is decidedly improving. 

While we were breakfasting, a rumor reached our ears that the 
cholera was in the cabin. It ran like wildfire through the boat. The 
cholera! Great heaven! And there were many anxious faces, while 
others took the matter calmly. Some doubted it to be genuine chol- 
era and thought it simple cholera morbus. But the groans of the 
afflicted one proved his sufferings severe, be it what it might. He 
was a young man about twenty-three years of age, belonging to the 
Virginia company. He had been very imprudent in St. Louis in 
eating fruit — it is also said in the use of ardent spirits, and was 
taken with vomiting and cramps the evening that we left port. Dur- 
ing the day of Wednesday, every indication showed the character 
of the disease, and a physician on board pronounced it genuine 
cholera. At night he appeared easier, and hopes were entertained of 
his recovery. But they were only illusive, for he expired about ten 
o'clock on Thursday morning. 

Here was a melancholy beginning for the company. One of their 
number, a favorite too, one of high hopes, with many friends be- 
hind, was suddenly stricken from their midst, though in the full 
enjoyment of health but a few hours before, and was to become 
foods for worms in a strange land, far from those who loved and 
cherished him as their own. Yet he was not neglected. All was done 
that could be under the circumstances, and although he had no 
mother to smooth the pillow of his sufferings or weep over his dis- 
tress, yet there was not a heart on that boat that did not yearn to do 
something for his comfort. A rough box was made instead of a 
coffin, of the only material that could be had, and a little before 
night the boat lay up to the shore to give an opportunity to bury 
him. It was in a gorge, between two lofty hills, and a place was se- 
lected about midway of that on the right hand, beneath a cluster of 
trees on a bright green sward. Many and willing hands lent their 
aid in digging his grave, a procession was formed from the boat and 
proceeded to his last resting place with all the respect and solemnity 

13 Cf. p. 1. 


used in such occasions at home, and when the corpse was lowered 
into the grave, and, by the faint twilight, a friend read the Episcopal 
funeral service, although it was in the midst of a drizzling rain, 
every hat was removed simultaneously, and every heart seemed 
softened with respect for the deceased and reverence for God. How 
little can man foresee his own destiny! How little is the thread of life! 
The first use made of the spade that was taken to turn up the golden 
sands of California, was to bury one of their own companions amid 
the rocky bluffs of the Missouri. 

In the midst of the succeeding night, the slumbering crowd were 
again awaked by an agonizing cry in the cabin, of "Heaven, have 
mercy on me! Spare me, O God! They are coming! They are com- 
ing! Drive them off! Don't you see them bite me?" A miserable 
wretch was paying the penalty of intemperance and, in a fit of 
delirium tremens, fancied that snakes were crawling over him and 
grinning devils were coming to carry him off. 

Our heavily laden boat is making slow progress against a strong 
current and a strong headwind, and our trip to St. Joseph promises 
to be about double the usual length of time. Friday morning de- 
veloped the fact that we had some of the sporting gentry on board. 
One adventurer was fleeced of every farthing of his money at the 
card table, and two of the cabin passengers found their pockets cut 
by some scientific operator. 

Finding our supplies of breadstuff too small for our long trip, our 
boys tried to replenish our larder at several little towns, but without 
success. When we reached the beautiful town of Boonville, I thought 
I would try my luck. When the boat touched the landing, I jumped 
off and made my way to a baker and laid in a good supply of eat- 
ables. As I was going on board, I met Brown, who exclaimed, with 
a joyful countenance, 

"Well, I've had good luck this time. I've got ten loaves of bread, 
a host of rusk, and a lot of cake." 

Just then Smith, 14 espying us, came up with an arm full. — "Won't 
we go it now, boys? See here! I've got a cartload." 

"The deuce," says I, "so have I! Where's Fred? I'll warrant he's in 
the commissary's department too." 

Directly he came in with supplies for St. Joseph, and on taking 
inventory, we found that we had on hand forty loaves of bread, six 
dozen rusk, fifteen cards of gingerbread, besides sundry piles of 
nuts, apples, milk, and crackers to fill — a tolerable supply for five 
men for three days. 

"Go it, boys, while you're young, but don't let the captain see it, 
or he'll charge for extra freight." 

14 Ebenezer Smith, of Ottawa. He was another of the three whom Delano engaged. De- 
spite special kindness, he too broke his contract in California. Across the Plains, 1, 30, 
107. An Ebenezer Smith died at San Francisco, aged twenty, on May 24, 1851. San 
Francisco Aha California, May 30, 1851. Cf. pp. 4, 12, 32. 


Mr. Green's company, 15 including young Thorn, left St. Louis 
the day before we did. Mr. Fredenburg intended going up with 
them, but was accidentally left. I did not regret it, as it gave us the 
pleasure of his company, and his dry jokes help to destroy the 
tedium of our steamboat imprisonment. Smith, too, has varnished 
up his old stories, so that we contrive to pass the time very agree- 

Monday evening, April 16, found us five miles below Independ- 
ence landing, and the captain as well as passengers were anxious to 
get in that night. The river was full of snags and required the most 
careful running even by daylight; still the pilot thought he could 
carry us safely through. A furious storm of rain suddenly arose, our 
boat struck heavily twice against floating trees and Capt. Baker 
would run no more risk. The boat was therefore run alongside an 
island, though with considerable difficulty, and we lay by till day- 
light, when we ran up to the landing. 

The town of Independence lays three miles from the river; and 
the landing is only a small cluster of log houses, with two or three 
poor warehouses. A high limestone bluff runs from the river and is 
ascended by a difficult road about a quarter of a mile in length. At 
St. Louis we were told that an immense throng had congregated at 
Independence, five or six thousand, and that the landing was lined 
with wagons for a mile, so that it was difficult to find a passage 
through them. I counted six wagons at the landing and forty on the 
bluff belonging to different companies; and I was told by a gentle- 
man, who was collecting the names of all the emigrants, that he had 
visited all the encampments, that within a circle of fifteen miles 
there were about 2,500 only at that time. 16 1 will not hazard a guess 
now at the probable number who will attempt to emigrate, but I am 
convinced that it will be much less than was expected. 17 

Since leaving St. Louis the weather has been cold and a strong 
head wind has blown for eight days in succession, which has, per- 
haps, had a favorable effect on the health of our passengers; still 
our long trip has made us anxious to be free from the imprisonment 
of a steamboat. 

We arrived at St. Joseph on Thursday evening, April 19. 
Yours truly, 

A. Delano. 

15 Jesse Green (1817-1907) was captain of a company from Dayton, Illinois. Born at 
Newark, Ohio, he became a prosperous miller and served several terms as justice of the 
peace and town supervisor at Dayton, where he died. Ottawa: Old and New, 2, 7, 108- 
109; Past and Present of LaSalle County, Illinois (Chicago, 1877), 581. 

16 The gentleman who gave this information was probably the unidentified correspondent 
of the St. Louis Missouri Republican who shuttled between Independence and St. Joseph 
gathering data on the Forty-Niners and who signed himself "California." St. Louis 
Missouri Republican, April 10 — May 17, 1849. 

17 Between twenty-five and thirty thousand people negotiated the California Trail in 1849, 
and as many more in 1850. John W. Caughey, California (New York, 1940), 296, 300. 



St. Joseph, April 21, 1849. 1 

Dear Free Trader — From the mouth of the Missouri to this 
place the banks of the river are high and often precipitous and 
rocky, though the valley is sometimes two miles wide, and the water 
is constantly wearing away the soil of the bottoms, which are only a 
deposit of the stream at some former period. This makes the Mis- 
souri a muddy stream, resembling the water in a puddle after a 
shower; but after being allowed to settle a short time, the water is 
sweet and wholesome. A few miles above Independence, we pass 
the mouth of the Kansas, and on that side up to Council Bluffs, per- 
haps higher, is the Indian country, their claim to which is not yet 
extinguished by the government; and on their side you see no sign 
of civilization except at Fort Leavenworth, up as far as we have 
come, while the opposite or north side of the river is a fine farming 
country, well settled a short distance on the bluff. Fort Leavenworth 
stands upon the bank, perhaps an hundred rods from the river, and 
is like an oasis in the wilderness of prairie and cottonwood of the 
bottoms, with its neat barracks and surrounding brick buildings. 

The tedium of the steamboat was at length relieved by a view of 
the pretty and thrifty town of St. Joseph on the 19th, about four 
o'clock p.m., after a ten days' confinement, from St. Louis. It is 
situated upon a level plot, in a kind of amphitheatre, high ridges of 
broken prairie in the rear, with the river in front. It is the county seat 
of Buchanan County, has a fine spacious courthouse, two or three 
churches, a population of two thousand souls, twenty-one mercan- 
tile stores, mechanics in proportion, three steam flouring mills and 
a fourth under contract; three sawmills, and I was informed that 
fifty-four brick and ninety frame houses were erected last season. 
Twelve thousand hogs were slaughtered here last fall, and large 
quantities of bacon, hemp, and tobacco are brought in from the sur- 
rounding country. It is only five years since the town was surveyed 
and laid out, and it promises to be a place of much importance. It 
is already one of the prominent starting places for California and 
Oregon emigrants. 

At St. Louis the emigrants have been egregiously imposed on by 
false representations as to the capability of furnishing outfits here. 
We were told that the number of emigrants was so great that sup- 
plies could not be obtained, scarcely at any price; that the citizens 
were sending down the river for provisions; that board was seven 
dollars a week at the hotels, &c. We were, therefore, induced to lay 
in our bacon, a common article, at 5%c. per pound; our flour at 

1 Free Trader, May 11, 1849. roi 

$4.50 per bbl.; our bread at 5 and pay 30c. freight. We found on 
our arrival that the most beautiful bacon could be had and in any 
quantity at 4 to 5c; flour at $4 per bbl.; and board ranged from $2 
to $4 per week at the hotels. 

Cattle and mules, which had also been represented as being enor- 
mously high, can be had, the former at $45 to $55 per yoke and the 
latter from $50 to $70 each. Other supplies can be had on quite 
reasonable terms, and I should advise all who are coming not to buy 
in St. Louis but to complete their outfit here. 

We found on our arrival that Mr. Green's company had decided 
to move up the river to Fort Kearny, ninety-six miles. 2 The season 
is backward, and it will probably be ten or fourteen days before the 
grass will allow the emigrants to start. By going to Fort Kearny 
they avoid crossing the Platte. A good military road extends through 
the interior; the streams are all bridged, and they are forty-five miles 
advanced on their journey, having the advantage of settlements so 
far. We found the first South Bend, Indiana, company here, but on 
the point of moving to Fort Kearny; and I think many men will 
adopt the same course. 

This will make a division in the main body, so that a much wider 
range will be had for our cattle. My cattle, with those of Mr. Cut- 
ting, are thirty miles in the country awaiting our orders. Mr. Cutting 
arrived yesterday and we have despatched Mr. Smith for our cattle, 
having determined to take the Fort Kearny route. We intend to 
leave here on Tuesday. We have to make the melancholy record of 
the death of Mr. Zeluff , a member of Mr. Green's company. He was 
taken with diarrhea and suffered it to run without attention six days, 
when vomiting and cramps set in and terminated his existence in a 
few hours. That company left here a few hours before our arrival 
and went out five miles, when Mr. Zeluff died, and yesterday they 
stopped to bury him. 

Messrs. Morrill 3 and Thorn, who are attached to our mess, went 
on with Mr. Fredenburg's wagon in the Dayton (Green's) com- 
pany, and we expect to overtake them at the Fort, and then we in- 
tend to unite with Captain Tutt's company of South Bend, all old 
friends of mine. 4 

2 The old Fort Keamy, begun by Major General (then Colonel) Stephen W. Kearny 
near the present site of Nebraska City, Nebraska, in 1846, and abandoned as a military 
post in 1848. See the article on Kearny in the Dictionary of American Biography. This 
place is not to be confused with the Fort Kearny on the Platte River which was called 
Fort Childs in 1849 and which is now marked by Kearney, Nebraska. Across the Plains, 

3 John Morrill (b. 1827), of Ottawa. Born at Concord, New Hampshire, he fought in the 
Mexican War and followed the gunsmith trade. He mined in California until 1853, when 
he returned to Ottawa to become a farmer and raise a family. Starting as a captain, he 
was brevetted brigadier general in the Civil War. History of LaSalle County, Illinois 
(2 vols., Chicago, 1886), II, 537. 

4 Charles M. Tutt was "president" of a company of thirty men from South Bend, where 
Delano had conducted a general store. South Bend Register, February 22, 1849, as 
quoted in the South Bend Tribune, April 9, 1933; Pen-Knife Sketches, vii. 


There are here, and in this vicinity, from two thousand to twenty- 
four hundred men, but not over three thousand at this time. Every 
steamboat brings its hundreds, and the next ten days may swell the 
number to five or six thousand. 

I have ventured to predict ten thousand as the probable number 
who will attempt to cross the plains. It may exceed that calculation, 
but from present indications twenty and thirty thousand is far be- 
yond the mark. 5 

In the motley crowd assembled at this point, you see every variety 
of costume and arrangements for traveling according to the taste 
and ability of the emigrants. It seems to be a general disposition to 
set fashion at defiance, or rather it is fashionable to be unfashion- 
able. As a general custom, however, a check or woolen shirt, a 
Mexican broadbrim, small crown, white or brown wool hat, high 
boots reaching up on the knee, as uncomfortable as can be made 
a la seven league boots of Peter Schlemihl, 6 is the general character 
of your imaginary Croesus. Then others of more refined taste, who 
never dreamed perhaps of such exquisiteness at home, have culti- 
vated a most precious pair of mustaches and whiskers, while others 
are trying to coax a pair to grow without success, a la Baboonia, 
and with a finer display of bowie knives and revolvers may hide the 
trembling of a coward heart. And these men, most of whom are 
strangers to hardships, are about launching forth upon a sea of 
toil, where their habits must change and where all their comforts, 
aside from providential contingencies, depend upon themselves, 
their sagacity and ingenuity. They must drive and attend their own 
teams, repair all "breaks," wash and mend their own clothes, bake 
their own cakes, cook their own meat, brown and boil their own 
coffee, in short, be teamster, carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker, 
tailor, cook and bottle-washer all in one. Lawyers, physicians, 
counter-jumpers, ladies' man, dandy, think of this and weep, be- 
cause the gold won't come to you, but is obstinately bent on having 
you go to it at the sacrifice of so much paste blacking, cologne water, 
gin slings, and mint juleps. 

The women are all grinning at the thought of what a fist you will 
make on the bank of a puddle washing your own clothes without 
soap, or trying to stop up a hole in your shirt with a darning needle; 
and I fancy I hear my own better half, exclaiming half triumphantly, 
as I am sweating over the fire roasting coffee, with buffalo chips, 
after a rain, "It's good enough for you; you might have staid at 
home instead of going off on a wild goose expedition. You'll find 

s But cf. p. 7. 

6 Hero of Peter Schlemihls wunderbare Geschichte, by Adelbert von Chamisso (1814). 
Peter gave up his shadow to a gray stranger for Fortunatus' purse, which endowed him 
with almost unlimited powers. 


out that women are worth something after all." Never mind, boys — 
"de gustibus non" &c. 

For Gold the sailor plows the main; 

For Gold the farmer plows the land; 

For Gold we rag, tag, and bobtail, red shirts, 

and bowie-knife gentry plow sloughs, mudholes, Indian hunting 
grounds, Rocky Mountains, and Sierra Nevadas till we become 
shirtless members of the great unwashed and unshaved family, 
ready to fight for the last bit of a rat's tail for breakfast. 

(That last line is rather long and doesn't rhyme exactly, but there 
may be truth in it if not poetry. ) 

Another way of recognizing a gold digger here is by seeing a six- 
foot biped, with his legs doubled up so they won't drag, astride of a 
mule about as large as a good-sized calf. I saw several today, and 
mean to make drawings as soon as I get leisure. I gave one of the 
most Quixotic three cheers and a hurrah; he put spurs to the animal 
and disappeared in the course of fifteen minutes behind a hill about 
ten rods distant. 

Almost every boat reports one case of cholera, but in every in- 
stance it seems to have been brought on by imprudence or neglect; 
you may set this down as certain; and there is no case here among 
those who take proper care of themselves. We are advised that large 
numbers of foreigners are on their way to California, and I have 
heard but one determination expressed by our emigrants, and that 
is to assist our government to prevent foreigners of all nations from 
digging and carrying off the gold. They say, too, that if the govern- 
ment will do nothing, they will organize among themselves to pre- 
vent it. A militia formed from the emigrants will be an efficient 
force; for every man goes well armed and provided with ammuni- 
tion, and will form no mean army of themselves with a proper or- 
ganization. — Added to this, they are almost entirely composed of 
energetic, well-informed, resolute law-and-order men, who have 
characters at home and who cannot at once depart from the habits 
and mental training from childhood of a civilized and moral com- 
munity. I have scarcely seen a rowdy or intoxicated man among the 
emigrants — not one in five hundred. It is emphatically the case here 
that you cannot judge the character of a man by his dress. The 
check shirt, the broadbrimmed hat, the quaint coat or wrapper, and 
the everlasting boots, reduce all to a level in appearance — the man 
of science, the scholar, the merchant, the lawyer, the farmer, the 
laborer, or the dandy. 

It remains to be seen how well we shall sustain the sentiments 
that we have been educated in. I shall endeavor to keep you advised 



of our movements from this place and after we get off of all mail 
routes; we shall embrace every opportunity of sending an account of 
our doings, with, perhaps a sprinkle of some of our "sayings." 
Yours truly, 

A. Delano. 


English Grove, 38 miles below Fort Kearny, 
Monday, April 30, 1849. 1 

Dear Free Trader — Last Monday morning, about daybreak, we 
were awakened by groans and sounds of distress at the side of our 
wagon. "Who is that? — what is the matter?" was a simultaneous 
inquiry. "It is me — O! — I'm in such pain! — I'm very sick!" We in- 
stantly roused up and found Mr. Harris 2 was not with us and that 
he was the sufferer. 

On getting out of the wagon, we found him leaning against a 
wheel in great agony of pain, occasionally retching convulsively; 
and, on learning that he had been up two or three times before, we 
became at once satisfied that the cholera had insinuated its poison- 
ous fangs amongst us. I immediately gave him a large dose of 
laudanum, the only remedy or palliative at hand, and sent for a 
physician, who came within an hour and commenced an active 
course of medicine. 

He grew worse, however, nothwithstanding all our efforts. Vomit- 
ing, purging, cramping became excessive — with cold limbs and 
hands, and cold sweat pouring from his brow; still we worked over 
him till noon, when we found the symptoms had changed. The 
vomiting, purging, and cramping ceased, his limbs became warm 
and the pain in the bowels was much less severe. In this condition 

1 Free Trader, May 18, 1849. English Grove no longer appears on the map. 

2 Matthew Harris, of Ottawa. He was one of the three youths whom Delano engaged to 
assist him on the journey. Across the Plains, 1, 107. Cf. pp. 4, 6. 


he remained for three hours, thinking, with us, that he was better. 
About four o'clock in the afternoon, while laying in comparative 
ease, he was taken with gasping for breath and in ten minutes he lay 
a corpse before us. 

Such a sudden and unaccountable change overwhelmed us for a 
moment. We could scarcely believe him dead; yet it was palpable to 
our senses, and the stern reality bid us prepare for the last obsequies 
for the dead. We laid him out as well as our slender means would 
permit and kept watch till morning when, with heavy hearts, we dug 
his grave and, with none to help us in the last sad rite, we consigned 
him "to that bourn from which no traveler returns." 3 

Poor Harris! with high hopes he left home, and this was the end of 
them. He was a man of singularly honest and upright intentions, of 
great moral worth, simple in his habits, and sincere in his profes- 
sions. A Christian, he lived as near to what he believed his duty as 
the weakness of human nature allowed him. We felt that one of our 
best men had been taken. This is the only case that I am cognizant 
of where cholera has been fatal to a temperate man. He never drank 
ardent spirits as a beverage and was temperate in all his habits. My 
impression is that the state of the atmosphere was the cause. In the 
lower part of the town was one or two slaughter houses, around 
which were large quantities of pigs' feet, several dead cattle and 
hogs, which created an effluvia almost insufferable; and I cannot 
understand why the corporation of St. Joseph allows such abomi- 
nable nuisances to exist when cholera is among them and so many 
hundreds of people are daily arriving. 

With regard to general operations I can add but little to my 
former letter. The arrivals by steamboats are becoming less; some are 
already tired of the expedition and are offering their teams and out- 
fit for sale, while others are moving off to different points; so that in- 
stead of increasing at St. Joseph the numbers are rather decreasing. 

After repairing our wagon bows, which were damaged in St. 
Louis, my team, under Mr. Fredenburg's directions, started up the 
river on Wednesday, April 26, towards Fort Kearny, to join the 
Dayton Company, which had preceded us, while I remained behind 
to get letters and papers by the next mail. That night I received a 
touch of the elephant — a rub of the "shadow of coming events." 4 
I began to grow cold, and, hang me, if fire would warm me. In about 
an hour and a half, I got warm, warmer, warmest; and now ice 
wouldn't cool me. I tried the effect of cold water — humph! I had by 
some means swallowed a steam engine and all the water I poured 
down was converted into vapour at once; and, like the insatiable 
leech, there was a cry of "give, give, give!" till I thought my boiler 
would burst and I should be blown to atoms. A regular chill and 
fever was on me. The next morning I "went it" on blue mass: not 

3 Cf. Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, i, 79-80. 4 Cf. Campbell, Lochiel's Warning. 


high mass, but blue pill, and lay up to dry, thinking that by Friday 
I could go on. 

Friday morning the sun rose pleasantly and I arose smiling, under 
the impression that we would shine in company that day. I fed my 
pony early (I suppose the sun had fed his before I was up), intend- 
ing to start after breakfast. 

After a cup of coffee the sun put his head into a cloud and I put 
mine bewteen two blankets with another chill, which ended with 
another heating-up operation. However, after noon I got off my bed 
and on my pony, determined to get away from the cologne of St. 
Joseph. I was so weak I could hardly sit on my horse, but the pure 
air revived me, and I gained strength every mile, and by the time I 
reached the pretty town of Savannah, fourteen miles, I felt quite 

On Saturday I overtook my team, and then commenced an active 
warfare against internal combustion. 

By the way, I got no letters from home and have not received the 
least word from any of my friends since I left, and now, probably, 
shall not. 

We have been traveling over a high rolling prairie for the last two 
days, with considerable settlements. We reached here yesterday at 
noon and learned that Mr. Green, instead of going to Fort Kearny 
to cross the river, had crossed eight miles south of us, and that the 
South Bend company had gone on to the Fort; so that this divides 
the two companies for the present. I have sent my wagon to join the 
Dayton company and am laying up here to give my cold chills "a 
lick" if they don't give me "Jesse." You will perceive by my writing 
that I am not desperately sick and don't expect to be: I stop as a 
matter of precaution to attend to myself in season. I took cold the 
night poor Harris died in watching over him. The rest are all well. 

The grass on the bottom is good, but it will not be fit to start on 
the plains under ten or fifteen days. 

By the way, it is a singular fact, so far as my observation extends, 
that all those who have been sick either lived on the river or came 
up it, while those who came across the country have not been at- 
tacked by disease of any kind. I am now well enough to join my 
company, which I propose to do tomorrow, and shall then be in the 
Pottawatomie country. 5 1 have an opportunity to forward this to St. 
Joseph tomorrow and shall embrace it. I think I shall be able to 
write you again before we leave. It is twelve miles to the nearest 
post office. 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 

5 Now northeast Kansas, where a county is so named, after the Potawatomi Indians who 
were forcibly transported there in 1837-1838 from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wis- 
consin. Irving McKee, "The Trail of Death: Letters of Benjamin Marie Petit," Indiana 
Historical Society Publications, XIV, No. 1. 



Harney's Landing, May 2, 1849. 1 

Dear Free Trader — I left my comfortable quarters, where I had 
stopped to recruit and dose off the chills, this morning and came 
here to join our company. They have been encamped on the oppo- 
site side of the river in Indian Territory several days, but as the 
grass is good out at least fifteen miles, they have broken up camp 
and have determined to move as far as grass will allow. I shall cross 
after dinner and overtake them. We shall then be beyond any regu- 
lar public conveyance — shall have to depend entirely upon chance. 
I shall embrace any which may occur to continue my correspond- 
ence. I am happy to say that my health is re-established. I learn 
that all our company are well. We do not go to Fort Kearny, but 
strike for Grand Island on the Platte. And now commence our 
wanderings, and whether they will continue as long and be as varied 
as those of the children of Israel, remains to be seen. I fear, how- 
ever, that one of their evil deeds will be in some measure imitated 
by us; that is, the worship of the "Golden Calf." May we not forget, 
however, that there is a God in Israel. This is sixty miles above St. 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 

1 Free Trader, June 1, 1849. Harney's Landing, sixty miles up the Missouri River from 
St. Joseph, is not on present-day maps. It was apparently named after Major General 
(then Brigadier) William S. Harney, Indian-fighter in the Platte country. Dictionary of 
American Biography . 



Lawson's Settlement, California, 

September 18, 1849. 

Sierra Nevada Mountains, September 13. 1 

Dear mary — We are now within three days of Lawson's Settle- 
ment, in the Valley of the Sacramento; and if a bird was ever re- 
joiced to escape its thraldom, I shall be much more so to get to the 
end of this long, weary, and vexatious journey. A man deserves to 
be well paid who makes his first overland journey to California, for 
he can form no idea of the many trials he may be subjected to. The 
fatigues of the journey — the hardships of traversing an almost bar- 
ren wilderness of nearly two thousand miles, I care but little for; 
but it is the narrow-minded ribaldry — the ceaseless strife which is 
constantly marring the tranquility of such a crowd — a mass of men 
in which each individual acts independent of all the rest, caring for 
none but himself, which renders it almost insufferable. 

We have reached this point without accident to ourselves or our 
cattle, a somewhat extraordinary thing considering what we have 
passed through, but it has been accomplished only by the utmost 
vigilance and care on our part. We have been nearly three weeks 
longer on the road than we expected or should have been, but for 
circumstances. 2 When we were going down the Humboldt River, a 
report began to be accredited among the emigrants that there was a 
new road that led to Feather River, or the Sacramento, or the some- 
where, that it was an hundred miles nearer to the mines, a better 
route, no difficulty in crossing the mountains (Sierra Nevada), and 
plenty of grass and water all the way, and that we should not have 
to cross the barren desert of the Great Basin. We watched for days 

1 Free Trader, November 23, 1849. The editor's superscription reads: "Through the kind- 
ness of Mrs. Delano we have been permitted to publish the following highly interesting 
letter from her husband, now in the gold mines." 

Mary Burt Delano (1808-1871) became Delano's wife at Aurora, New York, in 1830. 
They had two children, Fred and Harriet, born about 1833 and 1843 respectively. The 
family was reunited at Aurora in 1852 and, after Fred's death, at Grass Valley about 
1857. Mrs. Delano was "universally esteemed as a most exemplary lady." Sacramento 
Union, February 22-23, 1871; Pen-Knife Sketches, vii, 57-58; Mary Delano Fletcher, 
op. cit. 

"Lawson's Settlement" was the ranch of Peter Lassen, famed Danish explorer of Cali- 
fornia, on the south side of Deer Creek at its junction with the Sacramento River. Lassen 
settled here in 1844 and three years later named the place Benton City (after Missouri's 
expansionist Senator) in the vain expectation that it would become a permanent metro- 
polis as the terminus of the Lassen Trail. In 1849 it was the best-known point, next to 
Sutter's Fort, in interior California. Illustrated History of Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra 
Counties (San Francisco, 1882), 332; Bancroft, History of California, IV, 708; VI, 16, 

2 Delano later revised this estimate of lost time to four weeks or more. Across the Plains, 


for the turning-off place, and in the meantime various reports were 
circulated about the road, and we did not know what to believe. In 
fact nobody knew certain whether there was a road leading to Cali- 
fornia that way, though there was one to Oregon. In much doubt 
we finally came to the turning-off point and our company deter- 
mined to take it anyhow, as there was forty-five miles of desert on 
the old road without grass or water; and a story became prevalent 
that when we got out ten miles on the new road, there was grass, in 
fifteen miles water and some grass, and after thirty-five miles there 
was good forage all the way. We took it — there was no grass for 
sixty-five miles and but one spring, a mile off the road, where water 
could be had for the cattle; in short, we were on the desert and 
drove the whole distance without feeding our cattle, and no water 
except at the commencement. Our train was the fourth that had 
taken the road, and I counted on the last thirty miles fifty oxen 
dead from exhaustion on the desert. Yet our cattle went through 
well. We then came to a large boiling spring which irrigated about 
twenty acres of land, and a little distance below the spring the water 
became cool enough for the cattle to drink. We lay here till 'most 
night and then moved to better and more grass seven miles beyond, 
where we lay over one day. There we had two twenty-mile stretches 
of desert to pass without grass or water, so that our no desert proved 
to be one hundred and five miles; yet we passed safely through and 
without loss, although many who followed us lost their cattle and 
had to abandon their wagons and pack through on foot. We now 
came to a tribe of very hostile Indians, like those we had been with 
on the Humboldt — they are a thieving set; they would come near at 
nightfall and either steal mules, horses, or cattle, or shoot them with 
arrows so that they could not be taken along, and then come in and 
get them after the emigrants are gone. We keep strict guard and 
save ours. We passed five hundred miles among the robbers; in fact, 
we are only two days beyond them. Some desperate encounters have 
been had between them and the whites, when in search of cattle or 
mules; for they fight well cornered, but run if they can. Yet I have 
been in the mountains alone by day and by night, have slept alone 
when the wolves have come howling within two rods of me, and 
have met with no trouble whatever from either Indians, robbers, or 
wolves; still, it was a risk. One gets used to it, and I have had no 
more fears in traveling alone, miles from any camp, than if I had 
been on a public road at home. We have seen many things I cannot 
speak of now, but have noticed them in my journal. At last we went 
northward till we met a government train going to the Humboldt 
with supplies for troops going in, and from them we learned that we 
should find a road just opened across the mountains to California, 
but that our route would be about three hundred miles farther than 
the one by the old road. We passed through a canon twenty-five 


miles. 3 This is a chasm wide enough for the road, and sometimes has 
considerable grass and wild oats growing in it. The country around 
is barren and rugged, the mountains impassable for wagons; but 
here Providence has opened this strange pass with perpendicular 
rocks three or four hundred feet high on each side. It is a great 
curiosity. Before we reached the pass we crossed the dry bed of a 
lake which was twenty miles long and five miles wide. Where we 
crossed the mountains it was by no means difficult; we were only a 
little over an hour in going over, and the hill is not any harder than 
many I have crossed in Pennsylvania. On the other side we descend- 
ed to the valley that led to Goose Lake, which was salt and soda, 
the shores being lined with carbonate of soda for miles. A few miles 
below this we struck Pit River, the longest and principal branch of 
the Sacramento. This we followed down through a fine valley for a 
hundred miles, passing a hill of pure carbonate of magnesia fifty 
feet high. This was another great curiosity, for all that is required 
is to take out large and beautiful blocks with perfect ease. On leav- 
ing Pit River we came into pine forests, some of the trees two hun- 
dred feet high; and we are now crossing the mountains a hundred 
miles from Lawson's on the Sacramento, where we expect to be in 
three days. In consequence of our lengthened route our provisions 
are very low, and for ten days we have had nothing but hard bread 
and coffee, except now and then getting a poor, lean piece of beef, 
which some of the half -starved emigrants have killed. But my health 
is as good as it ever was, and I can endure any amount of fatigue. I 
have not slept in a tent for more than two months, and in these 
mountains the ice is a quarter of an inch thick every morning; I lay 
on the ground and stand it well. We still hear encouraging news 
from the mines, and have met some Oregon men on their way home. 
There is much distress among emigrants on the old road. The grass 
is gone, their provisions have failed, many cattle died; and on the 
forty-five-mile desert, I have learned that five hundred mules and 
oxen lay dead and the effluvia has made much sickness among the 
emigrants. Many with families of little children are suffering, and 
those behind on the Humboldt must suffer severely if not perish. 
The grass is now gone on either road and God only knows how the 
last trains can get along. Many will go to Salt Lake to winter, some 
to Oregon, and some cannot get to either place. Men on foot daily 
pass us who started with good outfits but have lost all and are now 
begging their way through, and all the wagons on this route have 
scarcely enough for themselves as it is. Some pass on mules, having 
left wagon and baggage, their mules being too weak to draw their 
loads, and yet it is worse on the old road. It may have been the best 
thing for us that we took this road, for, except the first sixty-five 
miles, we have not really suffered, and that we might have provided 

3 High Rock Canyon, Nevada. 


against had we known of the desert, by taking along grass and 
water. I cannot tell you in a letter what I have seen or passed 
through; even a journal is too limited; yet what would look like 
hardship at home proves, on trial, to be no hardship after we get 
used to it. I have written you every chance, but there has been no 
sure one since I left Fort Laramie till Charles Fisher overtook us on 
the Humboldt. I wrote by him and entrusted him with my journal 
up to Fort Hall, as he was going direct to Sutter's and would mail 
them. 4 1 am very anxious to hear from you; I have not heard a word 
from my friends since the day I left Ottawa. I shall write as often as 
possible, and shall not close this until I reach the settlements. We 
have not seen a house for four and a half months, and have passed 
through many scenes which I must leave to recount on my return. 
I have felt quite uneasy about you during the sickly season but hope 
to be assured of your health before long. 

September 17. — At length I am in the settlements. We had ar- 
rived to within a little over fifty miles of Lawson's, and the road lay 
over barren mountains, and it was necessary for our train to lay 
over a day or two at the last grass, and I concluded to walk on. 
Taking a shirt and tying the ends together to make a knapsack, I 
shouldered it, together with my blanket, water-bottle and tin cup, 
and set out about two o'clock p.m. The road was rocky and bad all 
the way, with long hills to go up and down, and water only at long 
intervals, and then in deep cahones (ravines) a mile from the road. 
I walked twelve miles and came up with a Missouri camp with 
whom I was acquainted, and they invited me to spend the night with 
them. This was the last water for twenty-two miles. In the morning 
I started on, and at noon kindled a fire among the tall pines of a 
dense forest and made a cup of coffee with some of the water in my 
flask. I was now on an elevated ridge one hundred feet high and in 
many places only wide enough for a road. This continued for six- 
teen miles, and at four o'clock I reached a watering place and went 
a mile down a precipice to fill my bottle — a very laborious task — 
and then went on two miles. Here I met Colonel Watkins, of whom 
I have spoken in my journal and with whom I have traveled a great 
deal. 5 He insisted on my taking up quarters with him for the night, 

4 Charles A. Fisher, of Ottawa, was given the first part of Delano's journal, covering 
May 22 — July 17, but apparently the Free Trader never received it. The second part, 
however, July 18 — September 16, was published in that paper. Free Trader, February 2- 
9, 1850. Fisher was reported as having gone to the Yuba River mines. Ibid., December 7, 

5 Joseph S. Watkins. After attending Washington and Lee University, 1804-1806, he ac- 
quired the title of "Colonel." He served in the House of Burgesses for Goochland County, 
Virginia, 1820-1825 and 1826-1839, then migrated to Memphis, Tennessee, and Missouri. 
He was reported as residing in California in 1857; from there he went to Texas, where he 
was a farmer and a leader of the Democratic Party. Delano lauded Watkins' "prominent 
philanthropic goodness of heart." Across the Plains, 33; San Francisco Aha California, 
April 27, 1857; Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Washington and Lee University, 
Lexington, Virginia, 1749-1888, p. 59; Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 


but his train had not one drop of water. From that in my flask we 
made a cup of tea and we were soon sleeping soundly on the 
ground. I preferred sleeping near a camp, for this forest swarms 
with grizzly bears and large wolves and panthers, their tracks being 
very frequent in the road. In the morning we had a very little tea 
from the water left, though two of his men walked four miles after 
night and got a pailful. I then walked eight miles, where I went 
down a still more steep precipice to a creek, kindled a fire and made 
another good cup of coffee, which revived me very much. About two 
o'clock I reached the Sacramento Valley, and at five I came in sight 
of the first house, belonging to Colonel Davis, of Tennessee. It 
seemed strange to see habits of civilization again, and I hardly knew 
what to say or do when I reached it. A mile below was Lawson's, 
and the plain was dotted with tents, wagons, and cattle of the emi- 
grants and those going to the gold mines from below. My first 
thought was for something to eat; I bought a pound of the best beef 
I ever saw, a pound of sugar, a quarter pound of cheese, four bis- 
cuits, and a little salt, then went to cooking and fared sumptuously. 
Flour is selling here at $50 per 100; beef 35c. per lb.; sugar, 50c; 
cheese, $1.50 per lb. I paid 10c. for two tablespoons full of salt. 
These things are much cheaper at Sutter's, now called Sacramento 
City; but here they sell at any price, as emigrants come in hungry 
and destitute of provisions. My train will be in tonight or in the 
morning, and I think my first move will be to go to the city to raise 
some provisions. As for the prospects of mining, all agree that it 
ranges from eight to a thousand dollars per day. If you get a good 
place, a few hours will yield hundreds, perhaps thousands, but after 
getting the hang of the barn you are sure of eight dollars. This is the 
lowest that I have heard. Of course at this time I can say but little 
about it, but in the course of three or four weeks shall know more. 
There are various ways of making money, and my team will be 
worth a great deal to me either to haul loads or for beef. The latter 
is said to be worth a dollar per pound in the mines. If I go to the 
city I shall write to you from there. You will direct all letters to me 
to Sacramento City, where, I am told, there is a post office. From 
what I can learn at this early date the prospects are very encourag- 
ing, and I do not doubt of doing my share. It has been very sickly 
in the Valley, but the season is about over and we have got in about 
the right time. 

This is nothing but a trading post of two families, Lawson and 
Davis. They live in low, mean, mud houses of unburnt brick 

6 Peter L. Davis (1798-1867) had a plot on the north side of Deer Creek, a mile east of 
Lassen's. Born at Asheville, North Carolina, he came to the Feather River via the Lassen 
Trail in October, 1848. Beginning in 1850, he resided successively in Santa Clara, San 
Joaquin, and Humboldt counties. Sacramento Union, June 26, 1867; San Francisco Alta 
California, July 1, 1867; History of Santa Clara County (San Francisco, 1881), 659; 
Bancroft, History of California, II, 776. 


My health never was better, and my ambition to be making 
something is equally as good. I shall soon write you again and I 
hope to know more of the gold region. I have been unable while on 
the road to write to any of my friends, but shall now embrace my 
first leisure to do so. 
God bless you. I am 

Affectionately yours, 

A. Delano. 

Sacramento City, 
Two miles from Sutter's Fort, September 30, 1849. 1 

Messrs. Editors — I have been here four days and am on the point 
of leaving for the Upper Sacramento. I have much information to 
write you at my first leisure. It has been with much difficulty that I 
have written at all, our labors have been so severe, and it has been 
done chiefly at our noon halts under the shade of our wagon. The 
Valley has been much misrepresented by writers with regard to 
beauty and fertility. I would not exchange a good farm on one of our 
rich prairies for the whole of it; and instead of the beautiful Italian 
sky, it is smoky and unserene. The grass is dry and parched, with 
nothing green but the leaves of the oaks. 2 But there is gold in the 
mountains and opportunities for making money beyond anything I 
ever saw. The mines for six hundred miles are yielding well, though 
it is a kind of lottery in finding rich leads. Many are discouraged at 
not finding it plenty enough to scrape up, and are disgusted and 
leaving for home; many have been sick, made so by imprudent ex- 
posure and living. — New mines are being discovered even up in the 
Cascade Mountains. I do not regret coming, and shall remain, for 
I can make something; so can anybody who will work. I hope you 
have received the other portions of my journal which have all been 
duly sent. 3 Letters and papers I wish directed to me at Sacramento 
City, as there is a post office here. One word to all: Let no man 
come here who will not be willing to work steadily. As near as I can 
learn, a kind of average is about one ounce per day, though I have 
seen many who have not made more than five to ten dollars, while 
many have made and are making hundreds — thousands — in a few 
hours. You may dig a week and do little or nothing, and this dis- 
courages many, and they leave disgusted; but all say the wheel will 

1 Free Trader, February 2, 1850. 

2 This dispa 
frankly con] 

3 Cf. p. 19. 

2 This disparaging view of California is repeated in succeeding letters. But in 1852 Delano 
frankly confessed his error. Cf. p. 142. 


turn, keep digging. I shall be gone above about a month and in the 
time will try to give you a true and impartial statement of things as 
they are without any poetry. The South Bend and Hennepin 4 com- 
panies are all in safe, and I have met several old friends who emi- 
grated to Oregon some years before. Our company has separated; 
most of them gone to the Yuba mines, some to the Sacramento, and 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 

4 South Bend, Indiana, and Hennepin, Illinois. 

Upper Diggings, 
Feather River, October 12, 1849. 1 

Dear sir — I have tried a long time to write you, but, since crossing 
the Missouri River, either sickness, extreme fatigue, or constant 
labor have totally prevented me. I have scarcely been able to write 
to my own family; and I have been compelled to make my journal, 
hastily written, subserve the place of correspondence to my most 
intimate friends, to whom I hoped and intended to have written 
frequently. You can form no idea of the labor, fatigue, trials and 
patience of an overland journey to this country. While traveling 
along the Platte for hundreds of miles, cold and rainy weather be- 
numb your fingers while pitching tents, guarding cattle, preparing 
meals, gathering fuel so scantily distributed, and a thousand et 
ceteras blunt your faculties; and when the hour of quiet arrives at 
dark, you sink on your hard couch exhausted. It is the same when 
you reach the burning sand after passing the Platte; and, in addi- 
tion to this, while traveling down the Humboldt (or Mary's River) 
the utmost vigilance is required to keep marauding bands of Indians 
from stealing or maiming your cattle; and you become wearied and 
worn out, so that if you lay over a day, you cannot collect sufficient 
energy scarcely to wash a shirt or mend your ragged and dilapidated 
garments. Any man who makes a trip by land to California deserves 
to find a fortune. The most of my writing has been done at our noon 
halts, often in the burning sun, for the little shade afforded by the 

1 Free Trader, February 2, 1850. The superscription reads: "The following letter from 
Mr. Delano was addressed to Sheriff Hurlbut, of this place, through whose politeness we 
are permitted to publish it." Henry Hurlbut was sheriff of La Salle County, 1846-1851. 
Ottawa: Old and New, 12. 

This letter was probably written at Dawlytown, a camp at the lower end of Bidwell 
Bar on the South Fork of the Feather, where Delano had opened a store with F. C. 
Pomeroy on October 10th. Across the Plains, 109, 112; Phil T. Hanna, "Dawlytown," 
Dictionary of California Land Names (Los Angeles, 1946). 


wagon would be occupied by the wearied men. But we have got 
safely through without losing or laming any of our cattle, a some- 
what unusual circumstance, and no serious mishap occurred except 
running short of provisions and living about three weeks on hard, 
dry bread and coffee. My journal, published in the Free Trader, 2 
will give you a general outline of our daily marches and adventures 
by the way; so I will not speak of them here. We made two grand 
errors: first, in taking the Nemaha Cut-off, 3 which put us back 
eight or ten days; and next, leaving the Mary's River and taking the 
Oregon and California Trail, 4 by which we lost three weeks' time in 
getting in, and on account of which we ran short of provisions and 
had to pass four hundred miles through hostile Indians that kept us 
on the lookout day and night. The Valley of the Sacramento, in- 
stead of being such a delightful region with its perennial spring, its 
blooming flowers, and clear sky, we found to be parched with 
drought, the grass dried to a crisp, the earth filled with wide cracks 
from the effects of a scorching sun and months without rain; indeed 
I have seen no rain from the 1st day of July to the 9th day of Octo- 
ber, and there was nothing green for over a hundred miles that I 
have traveled except the oak and willow that line the banks of the 
streams. The atmosphere has been so smoky that I could rarely see 
the high mountains on either side of the Valley from the road, 
though only a few miles distant; while the nights have been uncom- 
fortably cold (without frost), the days often burning hot. The soil 
in the immediate neighborhood of streams is no doubt good — equal 
to, though not better than, our prairies; but only one crop can be 
raised in a year on account of the drought. No doubt a change ap- 
pears in the spring. During the rainy season all the low grounds are 
overflowed, while the deep soil, where it is more elevated, becomes 
so muddy that all communication ceases by teams and often for 
horses. It begins to rain in November usually, sometimes before, but 
business can be carried on till Christmas or the 1st of January, and 
during the month of February it is generally too wet to do outdoor 
work. Spring opens in March. Winter crops are put in the ground in 
October or November, and they mature before the extreme heat of 
summer comes on. But California is not destined to be an agricul- 
tural country so long as the mines are productive. The high price of 
labor will make the cost of grain much higher than it can be supplied 
from the States, and breadstuffs will continue to be imported prob- 
ably for many years. But I suppose you desire to hear particularly 
about the gold region and the chances of getting gold. The result 
of my short residence here is this, and I think I am not far out of the 
way: Gold exists no doubt in large quantities in the mountains and 

2Cf. p. 19. 

3 A name apparently ironically applied to the route followed by the party from the 
Missouri to the Platte. Across the Plains, 15-16. 

4 I.e., the Lassen Trail. 


is washed down into the rivers and creeks by the annual floods. New 
discoveries are being made all the while, but it is not every man who 
comes here that will return rich. It is a kind of lottery. All are mak- 
ing some, and many are making fortunes, probably as many as ever. 
In following the streams, the bars and low places near the river are 
searched where the slate rock comes to or near the surface. The 
rock catches the flakes in its crevices as it is washed down; so that 
you will perceive at once that in some places there will be more than 
in others, while in some there will be none. Where you think it may 
be, you take off the top soil, stones, and sand or fine gravel, and 
scoop up all the sand and dirt near the rock and in the crevices; this 
you wash, and a few pans full will show whether there is gold there 
or not. The gold sinks to the bottom, being heavier than gravel or 
sand. Sometimes a new beginner may work a week and not pay his 
board; but he must learn the trade of washing and judging where it 
may lay, and he is sure to get something. Many get discouraged and 
go to other mines, while others work for weeks and make only five 
or ten dollars a day, and others strike a good lead and take out sev- 
eral thousand dollars in a few days. On this river many wing-dams 
have been made and in all cases, so far, have yielded a rich return. 
Four men may make a dam in one to two weeks and with the cradle 
and pan wash out large amounts. The stories you generally hear at 
home are of the lucky ones; those who have worked for weeks and 
have only cleared a small sum are not reported, and these are many. 
They become discouraged at one place and go to some other, where 
the same thing occurs, or they may strike a rich lead and do well, 
while others, coming to the mines that have just been abandoned, 
may do equally well. One day a man got $50, the next, perhaps, 
nothing; and so it goes. There seems, then, to be but one way to 
work in the mines, and that is to stick to it till your turn and time 
comes, and be not discouraged because you are getting nothing and 
the man within three feet of you is taking out $100 per day. The 
work is not more laborious than digging at home, about the same; 
and the man who can dig there all day can do the same here, and 
men unused to it must become inured to it. Wages paid in these 
mines for washing is from $8 to $10 per day — $8 and $10 and 
found — at $12 the man finds himself. Board in the mines $3 to $4 
per day, which leaves about $8 clear. I think the price of labor may 
decline some when the whole emigration gets in, though it will al- 
ways be high. Hauling provisions and teaming generally has paid 
more than well. Early in the season a man could get $800 to take 
3,000 lbs. to the mines; but prices have been reduced now to $20 to 
$30 per 100 lbs. Last spring cattle were very high, $2,000 being 
offered for three yoke and a wagon and refused, very properly too, 
for two loads would pay it. Now, however, they are cheaper: oxen 
sell for from $40 to $80 per yoke, and a good wagon $80 to $100. 


This change is produced by the number driven in from the States. 
Mules are in demand at from $125 to $200, and some even $300. 1 
could tell you of men who are taking out from $500 to $1,000 per 
day, but I could also tell you of men who have labored three months 
in the mines and have made but little over expenses. There are other 
ways of making money here besides digging gold: laboring men do 
well; a man with a good team has a good capital to work on; and 
mechanics, especially carpenters, do well. The climate, I think, is 
unhealthy for northern men. There has been much sickness, not 
only in the mines, but in the country generally; dysentery, blood 
flux, ague and chill-fever are plenty. These yield readily to proper 
remedies if taken in season, much the same as in Illinois. — This is 
about the state of things as they now stand. In the city (Sacramento, 
at Sutter's Fort) speculation has become the order of the day; many 
men have realized fortunes in a few weeks, but that time is passed, 
for lots have run up far above their value. Lots which sold four 
months ago for $200 are now held at $10,000. One hotel rents for 
$1,500 per month, another $1,000; one eating and drinking estab- 
lishment for $80, and so on. When the rainy season comes on, near- 
ly all the town will be inundated, and they will have to move off 
towards the Fort till spring. Lots will then fall, I think. In the city 
the buildings are chiefly made of cloth, so that they can easily be 
taken down and replaced in the spring. Provisions there are low, all 
things considered, and they sell in the mines at about 200 per cent, 
profit, though the advance varies according to the distance and the 
facilities of getting to the mines. Where I am teams nor mules can 
go any farther up, and men are at work about ten miles above, but 
they have to pack their provisions over rocks and passes where no 
road can be made. The gold found here is very pure; it exists in fine 
scales, but higher up it is coarser. The dry diggings have not been 
worked recently, but will be this winter as soon as there is water 
enough in the ravines to wash with. To those who wish to come I 
would recommend the route by the Isthmus or around the Cape, 
for, disagreeable as it may be, they will suffer less than by an over- 
land trip; but whoever comes, let him not think of returning in less 
than two years, for it will take that time to bring matters around 
right. I have made something and am getting matters in a train to 
make more, I hope. 

A. Delano. 

P.S. — October 23. 5 — I came down from the mines for a new 
supply of provisions today. I find them fifty per cent, higher than 
when I was here before. 

5 This postscript was probably written at Sacramento. Across the Plains, 112-119. 



Valley of the Sacramento, 
November 19, 1849. 1 

Dear Free Trader: — I take the first leisure moment that I have had 
since my arrival in this Paradise of California to redeem the promise 
I made of giving you what I know to be facts of this much-praised 
country and of the charming Valley of the Sacramento, and the 
leisure which I now enjoy is forced upon me by the rains and the 
utter impossibility of operating during the autumn. We had been led 
to believe that on reaching the Valley we should find a delightful 
climate, green with flowers and ever-blooming herbage, a luxuriant 
soil unsurpassed by any in the world. It was the 1 6th of September 
when I first set foot upon the Sacramento Valley. The sun was burn- 
ing hot, the grass was dry and crisp, with no vegetation except upon 
the immediate banks of the stream, where the scrubby oaks still re- 
tained their verdure from the effects of the water which the thirsty 
soil soaked up, and the whole Valley looked as dry and vegetation 
as dead to all intents and purposes as you ever saw it in the States 
upon the approach of winter or a long continued drought. For miles 
in many places there were large and deep cracks in the earth pro- 
duced by the glowing sun, and we found no water along the road 

1 Free Trader, March 30, 1850. This letter must have been written at Mud Hill, near 
Oroville, where Delano was weather-bound most of November. Across the Plains, 113- 


often for fifteen and twenty miles when we came to a creek or river, 
except now and then a muddy pond hole so brackish as to be used 
only from absolute necessity. The Valley may be from thirty to forty 
miles wide in many places, but not always. The road down the 
Valley from Lawson's to Sacramento City approaches occasionally 
within ten to fifteen miles of the California (and Gold) mountains, 
but the atmosphere was so hazy that I could not distinguish their 
outline and often could not see them at all even in that short dis- 
tance, and but once since I have been in the Valley — the 13th of 
November, has it been clear enough to see the Coast Range and 
both sides of the Valley distinctly. Whether this is always the case 
or not I do not pretend to know; I simply state the case as I saw it 
this fall. In passing ranchos and on my arrival at the city, I saw 
more sickness from fever and chill and flux than I ever saw before, 
and Mr. Bryant in speaking of the salubrity of the climate, says that 
dead cattle emit no offensive smell but dry up. 2 This is not so; ani- 
mal matter decays as soon and emits as offensive an effluvia here as 
at home, though no dew falls during the long dry season, so that 
sleeping outdoors is not unpleasant. The days are excessively warm 
and the nights become so cool towards morning that extra clothing 
is necessary for comfort. We supposed that the labor of crossing the 
plains would have fitted emigrants to bear the climate better than 
those who came by sea. But so far as my observation goes, there 
was no difference. All suffered sickness alike, and one was as likely 
to be taken down as another. And thousands were sick, and still are. 
Indian corn and potatoes do not thrive well, though they can be 
raised, and but one crop of wheat can be raised in a year. 

If there is rain, enough wheat will grow without irrigation; other- 
wise the land must be watered. To sum it all up, it is no agricultural 
country, it will not compare with the western prairie, and its chief 
value consists in the mines. The mountains are a barren waste which 
cannot be cultivated, and the Valley is an arid plain unfit for an 
agriculturalist to spend his time and labor upon. The ranchos are 
from ten to twenty miles apart. These are rude houses without 
floors, built of sun-dried brick, owned by men either squatting on 
the land or by those holding a grant from the Mexican governors of 
California, a dubious title which the U. S. Government may or may 
not recognize. These men claim from ten to one hundred leagues of 

2 Edwin Bryant (1805-1869) was the author of a very popular guidebook entitled What 
I Saw in California — Being a Journal of a Tour of the Emigrant Route and South Pass of 
the Rocky Mountains across the Continent of North America, the Great Desert Basin, 
and through California, in 1846 and '47 (Philadelphia, 1848). The book was reprinted 
many times. One passage reads: "The atmosphere is so pure and preservative along the 
coast, that I never saw putrified flesh; although I have seen, in midsummer, dead carcasses 
lying exposed to the sun and weather for months, they emitted no offensive smell. There 
is but little disease in the country arising from the climate" (Chap. XXXVIII). In later 
letters Delano again attacks these and other views, mainly of California's scenery and 
agricultural future. Cf. Chap. XXIX. For Bryant's career, see Appletons' Cyclopaedia of 
American Biography (7 vols., New York, 1887-1900). 


land, making a landed aristocracy which must control the country if 
their claim is recognized by our Government, and which will event- 
ually produce much disturbance unless the U. S. buy them out. 
Should their claims not be acknowledged, the titles to the lots sold 
in San Francisco, Sacramento City and other places are good for 
nothing and can be held only by pre-emption, and this will open a 
wide door for litigation and trouble. 3 Near each ranch is generally a 
village of Indians. 4 — These are for the most part perfectly naked at 
all seasons of the year, the women having only a small tuft of grass 
before them, though those employed about the house are dressed "a 
la Americain," but I have seen scores of men lounging around a 
ranch as naked as they were born, where were several women of the 
household. A more filthy and disgusting class of human beings you 
cannot well conceive. They are dark-skinned, nearly as dark as a 
negro, covered with dust, living upon acorns, wild fruit and fish. They 
have nothing of the noble bearing of the Indians east of the Rocky 
Mountains, and they seem to be only a few degrees removed from 
brutes. Their dwellings resemble almost exactly large coal pits where 
wood is charred; a hole is dug in the ground, a circular framework is 
built, and this is covered with dirt six or eight feet high, with a small 
hole at the base to creep in and out of, and another at the top to let 
out the smoke. You will always see numbers of men sitting on the 
tops of their hives sunning themselves, while the squaws are gener- 
ally engaged in preparing their acorn flour or in weaving baskets 
and pans, in which they are very ingenious. They make them per- 
fectly watertight. Their acorns are dried, then pounded fine and 
mixed with some kind of berries, making a kind of bread which is by 
no means unpalatable, but it requires a man who has the courage to 
eat a rattlesnake to taste it. In fact, a man must cross the plains be- 
fore he can summon resolution to eat it, especially after seeing them 
prepare it. The men are very expert in spearing salmon, of which 
there is the finest here I ever saw, and very abundant. They are now 
frequently employed in the mines for a mere trifle, and such gener- 
ally contrive to get a shirt, and a few get rich enough to buy a coat 
and pantaloons, but since the rains have set in I have seen hundreds 
of them wading the streams for fish or traveling on the plain naked, 
and paying no more regard to the wet chilly storm than dumb 
beasts. In the Valley they are now inoffensive, as the number of 
whites overawe them, but in the mountains they sometimes give the 
miners trouble and some collisions have taken place. Those in the 

3 Delano anticipates here the Sacramento Squatter Riots of 1850, involving the proponents 
and opponents of Sutter's Mexican land title and resulting in considerable bloodshed. In 
general, the validity of Mexican titles was maintained. Sacramento Transcript, August 15- 
16, 1850; Josiah Royce, "The Squatter Riots of '50 in Sacramento," Overland Monthly, 
VI (Second Series), No. 33 (September, 1885), 226-246. 

4 Maidu Indians. A. L. Koeber, Handbook of the Indians of California (Washington, 
1925), 391-441. 


mountains are treacherous and unsafe, and will be until they become 
acquainted with the power and strength of their Anglo-Saxon neigh- 
bors. — And now for the real value of California, the staple com- 
modity which has made it an El Dorado, and the only thing which 
renders it of consequence in a commercial point of view and which 
has induced so many to leave home and friends, to encounter hard- 
ships, sickness and privation, and finally to lay their bones in the 
lonely dells or high mountain tops of this volcanic and sunburned 
country, so far from home and kindred — Gold is the talisman. Gold 
is the lamp of Aladdin. Gold is the magic wand. And it is here, but 
how few, alas! of that mighty throng that passed the plains will have 
their dreams of wealth realized. Many have made fortunes, many 
are still doing so, but you do not hear of those who do not get 
enough to pay their board, of those whom disease has prostrated in 
the mines before they have dug an ounce, and the difficulties to be 
encountered before it can be obtained. 

I shall tell you the whole story as I see it, and then let those come 
who wish to. I will give no advice. I will neither discourage nor ad- 
vise anyone to come. They may come and get rich, or they may 
come and remain poor, and they may die. 

The gold appears to lay in the mountains in a certain range run- 
ning north and south. Fine gold is found at the foot of the moun- 
tains, in the streams and ravines, being washed by the floods from 
higher points. At about the same range and depth of ravines from 
twenty to thirty miles from the Valley coarse gold or lumps are 
found, and although everybody run to the rivers and go up as high 
as they can, the fact seems to have been generally overlooked that 
it exists in the same range where the depth of ravines are the same. 

I believe a man may go anywhere up such a ravine and find gold 
in lumps, and this range extends for hundred of miles, and probably 
through Oregon and on into Asia. Much is said of gold diggings on 
Trinity River, which heads in Klamath Lake and flows among the 
Cascade Mountains to the Pacific. 5 This has been discovered within 
the last season, and I do not doubt but rich mines exist there, for 
the upheaval of those mountains are higher and the dislocation of 
strata greater than in the California mountains; so that in the range 
the gold will be easily come at, and more ravines exist to work in. 

It has been found impossible hitherto to penetrate very high up 
the mountains from the difficulty of getting provisions up, and 
strong parties are more necessary on account of the treacherous 
savages who inhabit the hills. 

But passes are being found and obstacles overcome, and men are 
working their way gradually up, and will do so until they finally 
succeed in getting to the highest point of the golden range. As to 

5 Delano is in error here; the Trinity River rises in the Scott Mountains, Trinity County. 


the amount of gold which exists in the country, it has not perhaps 
been much exaggerated. There is great quantities, but the difficulty 
of obtaining it has not been properly understood at home, nor the 
trials a man suffers in getting it. There are always exceptions. Some 
men seem "born with a golden spoon in their mouths," but the great 
bulk of mankind have to labor for it. — A man cannot dig gold 
without something to eat, nor can he labor unless he has health and 

Those who have been here long enough to get well prepared can 
do much better than those recently arrived. You hear of men pick- 
ing out lumps of gold from the crevices of the rocks as if all they had 
to do was to stoop down and dig it out. These rocks by the way are 
in the beds of the streams, when at high water bars are formed over 
them often five or six feet. Before you get to the rocks and crevices 
you have to remove the stones, often heavy rocks, gravel and dirt, 
to the whole depth, and then scoop out the dirt lodged in the crev- 
ice, and under this dirt and sand or mixed with it lays the gold — 
sometimes you may spend a day or two in getting down to the rock 
and find no gold there; yet you may make a good strike and find 
thousands. Bars are not always so deep, and gold is found too dur- 
ing low water, when the rock is exposed, but there is always dirt in 
the crevice which covers the gold, and to obtain this it is frequently 
necessary to pry up large masses with a bar or lever and then gather 
the dust and wash it. 

But work is work, at home as well as here, and it is not the labor 
which is so exceptionable, for all do, or at least should expect to 
labor hard to obtain "the dust." There are difficulties of another 
kind to encounter which are insurmountable. — From July to Oc- 
tober the weather is too hot, especially in the mountain gorges 
where the "winds do not blow" and where no rain falls to cool the 
feverish air, to work, and the nights are often cold, giving two ex- 
tremes in twenty-four hours. Chills often are the consequence to 
those who attempt to brave the climate. From November — at least 
from the 1st of December till April — the continued rains and floods 
make it impossible for men to labor but little of the time without 
entailing disease upon them, and when a man gets sick in the mines, 
even if he has a physician and medicine, the food he gets is not of 
the kind required, and prices of attendance and of necessaries are 
so high that a month's sickness sweeps off a "big pile." Physicians' 
charges are one ounce per visit. Nurses charge from ten dollars up to 
any price. As miners often change their location, a great variety of 
provisions cannot be carried, and the essential and most convenient 
ones are pork, flour and salt. This diet, long continued, produces 
scurvy, of which I have known and seen many instances. These are 
the general difficulties, and I now proceed to facts respecting those 
who have come in the present season. A few had provisions enough 


left to go at once into the mines on their arrival, but they were very 
few. Some of these have done well, while many have done but little. 
But by far the greatest part were obliged to get provisions before 
they could make a step towards the mines. The season was some- 
what advanced before they arrived; many were without money and 
had to go to work to earn enough before they could buy provisions. 
Others rushed to the mines and went to work without experience, 
depending on their luck for subsistence. Without tents, many with- 
out blankets to shield them from the cold night air, living on pork 
and hard bread, with a burning sun by day, hundreds were stricken 
down by disease; many died, while others were unfitted for work for 
the rest of the season. On my arrival at the mines there was a heavy 
rain of twelve hours, and I know of four men who lay out in it, all 
of whom were too sick with chills and flux to sit up. I let my own 
blanket and buffalo skin go to cover one man from the storm within 
two hours after my arrival. His bones now lay on the mountain's 
side where the cold storm will trouble him no more. I know of com- 
panies of ten to fifteen men who crossed the plains, everyone of 
whom were down sick at once, with no one to wait on them. Some 
recovered and some died. 

And there were many men who were taken sick on their arrival, 
before they could dig an ounce. Four men passed my shanty, where 
I am now writing, yesterday, who were in that condition, and they 
are trying to get to the Coast, hoping to find a change of climate 

My friend Chipman has been unfortunate. 6 I have just learned 
that he was taken with the scurvy on the road and now hobbles 
about on crutches. He has been within eight miles of me a month, 
and an accident only made us acquainted with our proximity. I 
shall see him tomorrow and minister all in my power to his wants. 
And those who went to the city for supplies — about the time of 
their return and before many got to their intended diggings, the 
rainy season set in; so that those who could have went to work can 
do but little till next spring — say June, when they must start off for 
more provisions; yet proper arrangements with their companies will 
enable them to do something, however. My own adventures will 
give you an inkling of some of a miner's troubles, which I will give 
you directly, and hundreds are at this moment much worse off than 
I am. 

There has been much sickness, not only in the mines but through 
the Valley generally, and a good deal of suffering — I have seen it 
and could fill sheets with individual cases. If there is anything like 
getting acclimated to the country, the emigrants are going it with a 
rush, Mr. Bryant to the contrary notwithstanding. Hundreds are 

6 Otherwise unidentified, he came from Ottawa and died at Long's Bar in December, 
1849. Across the Plains, 118. 


leaving the mines on account of the scarcity of provisions. The 
rainy season has set in, and there are not provisions enough in these 
mines for those at work; of those who leave (and scores pass by my 
shanty daily) many expect to support themselves by labor in the 
city, but at this season business is suspended there, and they will 
find nothing to do at any price, and I do not believe that there are 
tents and houses enough to contain the throng that are rushing in. 
If a man has gold enough to support him and a tent, it may do to go 
to the city, but if he has neither he may die of want, for there are so 
many cases that common charity cannot relieve them. Yet, strange 
enough, it is the best country to make money in I ever saw, and a 
man who can and will work is pretty sure of congressman's wages, 
at least during the season of labor, which will be after the rains and 
floods are over. The rains have played the deuce with the calcula- 
tions of a good many. They had been at work in the mines, some 
successfully, and having got enough to purchase supplies, dis- 
patched a team after them. The rains have come on, and twenty- 
four hours have made the roads so bad in this beautiful and charm- 
ing Valley that they are either fast in the mud on the Valley plain, 
wealth-bound on the bank of some stream or slough, or trying to 
count the stars amid the fogs and clouds of the first hill. The latter 
is my case precisely. — I have not yet found out exactly how many 
stars there are in the Milky Way, but I know within a few feet how 
deep the mud is between me and my camp at Bidwell Bar, 7 only 
ten miles distant. Well, I lent my yoke and chains today to a man to 
pull an ox out of the mud that got mired fast, although he was driv- 
ing his cattle unyoked before him, and this is on a side hill of the 
mountain. You know I came here to make money. On my arrival at 
Lawson's, the two men who had engaged to work a year for me that 
I brought through, left me as a matter of course* and I took charge 
of my own team. On reaching the city, I took a load of provisions 
and started off for some place, not knowing exactly where, but to 
be governed by circumstances. The third day I lost one of my best 
oxen — strayed and got lost myself in hunting for him in a tangled 
morass where the brush, pea and grape vines were so thick as to 
make it almost impossible to get through. 

I got out, however, after a half day's hard labor, but did not find 
my ox and was compelled to buy another. Circumstances directed 
me to the Feather River mines, and I cleared six hundred dollars in 
two weeks on my load, and started for the city about the 20th of 
October for a recruit. No accident occurred in going down, but the 

7 Named after John Bidwell (1819-1900), who first discovered gold on the Feather River, 
in 1848. A native of Chautauqua, New York, he accompanied the first emigrant train to 
go overland from the Missouri to California (1841). He was conspicuous thereafter as 
soldier, landowner, and congressman. Dictionary of American Biography. 

8 Robert Brown and Ebenezer Smith. Cf. pp. 4, 6. 


day before reaching the Yuba the 3rd of November, the rains com- 
menced, although the old settlers assured us that we would have no 
trouble from rains till about Christmas. It poured down steadily for 
twenty-four hours and then held up. We drove five miles to the 
Yuba, where we had to lay up, as there was no grass nor water for 
the next twelve miles — too long a drive for the afternoon. The next 
morning we started out (there being three wagons in company) and 
I, being acquainted with the ford, took the lead. I observed that the 
river was swollen, but still thought it fordable and drove in. The 
opposite landing was only wide enough for a wagon to go up the 
bank, and I noticed my leaders were giving ground, and I jumped 
into the river to keep them up, but I found the current so strong that 
I was glad to get back on the wagon. As the water went deeper the 
current was stronger, and I soon saw my cattle could not stem it and 
were now at least two rods below the landing, unable to gain an 
inch upstream, and when within three rods of the shore they turned 
down the stream. I stopped them and jumped in to keep them to- 
wards the bank at least, but now I could not stand, and the current 
whirled me away like a shaving. I caught hold of my leader's horn 
as I was passing him and drew myself back to the wagon. I reflected 
that all my capital was there and that it was of the first moment to 
save my cattle. 

No aid could be given me by my friends on shore, as the current 
would sweep them away, and they stood there helpless, expecting 
to see me go to Davy Jones' bag and baggage, every instant. I got 
out between the wheel cattle and, with the utmost labor, finally suc- 
ceeded in getting the chain unhooked in about half an hour. The 
cattle started for the back shore, and I started for the wagon, but I 
was whirled away again with no more consideration by the foaming 
waters than if I had not been a teamster. But I caught hold of one of 
my oxen's tail and in this inglorious manner was tailed out, so 
chilled by the cold mountain stream that I could scarcely stand. 
Towards noon I went up to a ranch nearby to see if I could get a 
horse to ride in to my wagon, when a fiery young fellow swore he 
could get my wagon out or draw it to h-1. "Well, my fine fellow, if 
you will do it I will give you ten dollars and risk the wagon's going 
to the d--l." He took three yoke of strong cattle and a horse — drove 
down to the river, when his courage evaporated entirely and he 
dared not even ride in. I then took his horse and rode in myself, and 
availing myself of the aid of a strong company that had just arrived, 
I took one end of a rope, while they held to the other; landing into 
my wagon and sending my horse ashore, I contrived to fasten the 
rope to the wagon tongue, when the men hauled it to the shore safe 
and sound. With much labor I cut a path through the thicket of 
willows which line the bank, dug the bank down, unloaded my 
wagon, and secured my load, just as a second edition of the first 


rain commenced, when I retreated to my wagon, where I spent a 
delicious night with the river foaming under me and the heavens 
"hung with black," though I was this side up and kept dry, all but 
my wet clothes. The next morning the river was lower (as there had 
been no rain during the previous day) and the other wagons passed 
safely over, and hitching five yoke of cattle to my wagon tongue, 
it was drawn out and we soon started off. But now it rained and we 
found the rich soil of this charming Valley so unctuous that it was 
dark before we reached our campground, our cattle completely ex- 
hausted, ourselves completely soaked, and our song of "Susanna, 
don't you cry," 10 washed out of our memories by the trouble of 
getting our fires lighted and of cooking our suppers in the rain — in 
fact, we "just took a cold bite and went right to bed." 

The next morning dawned with outpourings upon us, and for my 
especial comfort I was violently seized with bloody flux, brought on, 
probably, by extreme exposure. We lay there six days, during which 
it rained incessantly. I found my comfort in two doses of calomel 
and about half a ton of opium (or less) which straightened my in- 
ternal relations, and the good and kind care of my companions, 
Messrs. Billinghurst, of Chicago, and Erholtz Holland of New Lis- 
bon, Ohio, brought me to my feet. They stuck to me like brothers, 
and their nursing probably went as far as the medicine to make me 
whole again — and we stick together yet in the mud on the moun- 
tainside, and we will stick together after we get out of the mire. 

As soon as we could move, we left our delightful quarters and, 
crossing a deep slough that now was a deep and rapid torrent in 
four days, we reached the first hill at the foot of the mountains 
twenty miles distant. 11 

One would naturally suppose that once upon the high ground 
where the water had a chance to run off readily, the road would 
have been better, but we found the contrary to be the case. Ascend- 
ing the first bench, the soft red soil was so completely saturated that 
any farther movement was utterly out of the question, for in or out 
of the road, the cattle sunk up to their bellies in mire, and scarcely 
an hour had passed that some courageous and go-ahead individual 
did not get fast, and several could not get their cattle out at all, 
and they perished miserably in the mud. There was not a blade of 
grass, and the only way left was for us to send our cattle back to the 
plain below, ten miles, to graze while we erected a kind of bough 
house (not a "bower of roses") and determined to await the course 
of events. Up to the present time, over two weeks, I have been on 
duty as bodyguard to the wagons. Our men come down and take up 

9 Shakespeare, The First Part of Henry the Sixth, I, i. 1. 

10 Stephen C. Foster, Oh! Susanna, one of the songs most popular with the Forty-Niners. 

11 Mud Hill, near today's Oroville. Across the Plains, 116-117. 


provisions as they need them, and instead of clearing over a thou- 
sand dollars which I should have done with ease upon my load, it is 
now probable that I shall stay here and eat it all up, and mine is not 
a solitary instance. It is only an exemplification of hundreds of 
teams who "went down into Egypt" for corn 12 when I did. Most of 
them are still behind, unable to cross the streams, while their com- 
panions above are practicing the art of living without food or nearly 
approximating to it. In the meantime provisions are so scarce and 
high that hundreds are leaving for the city to buy provisions, intend- 
ing to spend the winter on the spoils they have already won. Flour 
here is $200 per bbl., pork, $200; sugar, 75c. per pound; butter, 
$2.50; rice, 50c; hard bread, $ 1.25c; molasses, $5 per gallon; 
vinegar, $5; tobacco, $1; pipes from 25 to 50c; fresh beef, 50c, &c 
&c, so that during the rainy season a man can just about pay his 

Yet you daily hear of men who have been successful and who 
have got enough to satisfy them in a few weeks. Now I believe this 
to be the actual state of things at this time. What another season 
may bring about, I cannot say; but I presume that arrangements will 
be made to get up provisions so that miners will be better supplied 
than they are this fall. Heavy shipments of provisions from the 
States must pay well next year unless it is brought here by specula- 
tors. When I first went to Sacramento City, I bought flour at $15 
per bbl. Towards the close of the season the speculators put it up to 
$40. I saw a barrel of sauerkraut sell for $100; pickles (common) 
sell at $4 per gallon, and were measured in a two-quart measure. 
They have been scarce and are an invaluable article and almost in- 
dispensable in the mines as an anti-scorbutic Vinegar in the city 
sells for $1.00 per gallon. The character of the miners so far as I 
have seen, as a general thing, is highly respectable. As much order 
reigns here as at home, and thus far property is more safe. No ser- 
ious difficulties have occurred, and slight difficulties are adjusted 
by arbitration. 

Firearms and bowie knives are nuisances, and when a man makes 
a claim, it is respected as long as he works it, as long as he leaves 
his pick and tools in it. 

I still keep a journal of incidents from which I may occasionally 
copy for you, but this communication is intended simply to place 
the actual state of things before you as they now exist, independent 
of a regular routine of events. I am obliged to close this as I have an 
opportunity of sending it off. Since my leaving home to the present 
moment, I have not heard a single word from any of my friends. 
The mails are more than three months behind. I have written you 
fully of my whole trip besides one or two minor communications, 
and have written to many friends besides. Whether you will receive 

12 Genesis xlii: 2. 


my letters or not, I cannot say. An express is now in operation be- 
tween here and the States, and I shall hereafter send my letters by 
it to be mailed at some post office in the States, although the cost of 
each letter is one dollar paid to the agents. I wish all communica- 
tions and papers to me, to be directed to Sacramento City. 
Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 


February 16, 1850. 1 

Did you ever receive a visit from St. Nicholas in your childhood? 
With what pleasure did you take down the little well-filled stock- 
ing, suspended by a fork at the ingle-side before daylight of a merry 
Christmas morning, and how your heart swelled with joy as you 
drew from the deep recess of knit woolen the treasures which the 
good Santa Claus had left in token of his kind remembrance. 

It was a dark, gloomy day, and I was sitting somewhat moodily 
in my cloth-covered cabin, engaged in the pleasing, though some- 
what aristocratic (a la California) occupation of baking the bread 

1 New Orleans Daily True Delta, April 26, 1850. This was a Democratic paper, launched 
on November 18, 1849, and destined to survive until 1866. Its chief owners and editors 
were John Maginnis (d. 1863) and M. G. Davis (d. 1865). New Orleans Weekly True 
Delta, March 7, 1863; New Orleans Weekly Times, January 14, 1865; Winifred Gregory, 
American Newspapers, 1821-1936. 

The California True Delta, a semi-monthly "steamer" edition of the New Orleans 
daily, attained the remarkable circulation of 6,500 at Sacramento early in 1851, and 
according to a local competitor it was the "best paper that comes to California." Sacra- 
mento Union, March 31, 1851. 

As the body of the present letter makes clear, it was addressed to "Colonel" Joseph 
Grant, agent for the True Delta, whom Delano had met at Mud Hill, near Oroville, the 
previous November, when Grant was prospecting. Since then the agent had written to 
Delano asking him to undertake a California correspondence for the True Delta, and he 
is happy to comply. 

Colonel Grant, prominent in California, 1850-1851, was probably the Joseph Grant 
who sailed on the brig Octavia, June 26, 1849, on her regular run from New Orleans to 
Chagres, Panama. New York Herald, January 30, April 6, June 6, 1850; C. W. Haskins, 
Argonauts of California (New York, 1890), 477. Colonel Joseph Grant conducted a 
well-advertised business combining real estate, auctioneering, bookselling, money deal- 
ing, and the True Delta at Front and J Streets, Sacramento, the following two years. He 
ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1850 and announced he would campaign for governor. 
Sacramento's first formal historian called attention in 1853 to his promotional, charitable, 
and eccentric traits. And Delano admired him without reservation. But Grant seems to 
have disappeared entirely, late in 1851, although a Joseph Grant was an original member 
of the San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board of 1862, and a Joseph Osborn Grant 
(1818-1883) flourished as a carpenter at Benicia. San Francisco Aha California, Febru- 
ary 16, April 2, 10, October 9, 1850; Sacramento Transcript, October 8-20, December 
9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 1850; New Orleans True Delta, January 9— October 8, 1851; San Fran- 
cisco Pacific News, March 10-24, 1851; Sacramento Union, March 19 — June 19, 1851; 
Dr. John F. Morse, First History of Sacramento (Sacramento, 1945; original ed., 1853), 
3-16; San Francisco California Chronicle, April 30, 1856; "Joseph O. Grant," Petition for 
Letters of Administration, Ms., 1883, in Solano County Courthouse; Joseph L. King, 
History of the San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board (San Francisco, 1910), 1-6. 


which I had mixed up in the morning, when the curtain door of my 
log palace was suddenly drawn, and our mutual friend Dawly 2 ap- 
peared, with a bundle of papers and a note from you 3 which Captain 
Freeland 4 had brought up from the city. Had old Santa Claus him- 
self appeared with his precious gifts, I could not have been half so 
much gratified as the sight of that package from you afforded me, 
and I fear that some of my expressions savored more of childish 
delight than the calm pleasure of a man of forty. 5 You have been in 
the mountains, and know how isolated we are from the world, and 
particularly at this season of the year when all intercourse with 
below is nearly suspended, and we are left to seek amusement from 
our own reflection — you can well appreciate the pleasure with 
which I received your gift. The sight of a late newspaper is rare 
among us, and when one arrives in the mines it is read and reread, 
with all its advertisements even, and then it passes from hand to 
hand till little is left to entitle it to the distinction of being a news- 
paper. Suffice it then to say, that the package was most truly accept- 
able, and for which I thank you. When you next visit these diggings 

1 shall be able to afford you something better for a breakfast than 
that of my self-praised battercake. I have made decided improve- 
ment in my culinary education since your sojourn with me at Mud 
Hill, having taken lessons from that old dame, Madame Necessity; 
and now, instead of confining my experiments in cooking to heavy 
griddle cakes, I have been elevated to the high dignity of bread- 
baker. I most truly hope to be able to give you specimens of my 
proficiency, at my cabin the coming spring. 

I remained mudbound at my quarters at the hill for three weeks, 
enjoying the magnificent scenery of Table Mountain, which was 
occasionally peeping out of a cloud of fog, or taking a shower bath 
for days together, as if to drive away the chills and fever of this 
accursed climate by hydropathy, when at length, between a race of 
the sun struggling to shine and the rain to put him out, the road 
became solid enough to keep my cattle from sinking lower down 
than their bellies in mud, and I availed myself of the opportunity 
to get through, in which I succeeded by holding my breath and 
driving two days to get ten miles. Trouble of conscience for ever 
leaving home and coming to this delightful and Bryant-praised Val- 
ley, or something else, produced a severe attack of neuralgia, and I 
was confined to my bed for three weeks, when I had ample time to 

2 A young merchant, otherwise unidentified, for whom Dawlytown was named in 1849. 
Hanna, Dictionary of California Land Names. 

3 Colonel Grant. 

4 John Freeland, captain of the Independent Company of Louisiana Volunteers. William 
H. Roberts, Mexican War Veterans (Washington, 1887), 55. 

5 Delano was forty-three. 


groan from intense pain and study patience in all sorts of the most 
approved styles. On my recovery, for it is a fact that I did not die, I 
projected a prospecting tour up the South Fork in search of gold 
and for the purpose of more fully re-establishing my health. A party 
of nine was organized, it being dangerous to go with less on account 
of the hostility of the Indians, and in order to give weight to our 
enterprise we carried our blankets, five days' rations, making our 
packs about thirty pounds each, besides our prospecting tools, rifles 
and ammunition. We left in buoyant spirits — in fact we were soon 
convinced that high as our hopes were, we were rising in the world, 
and at every step became more and more elevated, for such infernal 
hills and mountains as we passed over — but you have been on the 
South Fork; you did not carry our packs, though. 

No need of mules here any longer, for after the first day we all 
became as mulish as the d— 1 could desire. We were gone just a week 
and penetrated the snow above the canon, but in return were pene- 
trated with the frost and cold of the high peaks, while the rain 
sought shelter in our bosoms, on the lower grounds, for it rained 
every day and night but one while we were gone, and we looked 
more like drowned rats than gentlemen gold-seekers. Strange to 
say, we did not even take a cold, and I gained in strength every day, 
although wet to the skin all the while. No doubt we should have 
been drowned were it not for the large quantities of raw, fat, salt 
pork which we ate. Like the ark, we were pitched within and with- 
out. And where was our gold? — echo answers, where! I did not see 
any, but I saw many places where it ought to be — my pocket, for 

We were fortunate enough, however, to secure a bar, 6 and we are 
making preparations for removing there as soon as possible. We 
made some discoveries, too, which may be valuable. Our location 
is at Wood's Bar, about four or five miles below the Canon, 7 where 
you will find us. 

With regard to "Notes on California," I will comply with your 
request with pleasure, and will embrace my first leisure to write a 
"plain, unvarnished tale" 8 of things as I see them. Most of the peo- 
ple who were here in the fall have gone and are going above, 9 and 
we have nearly a deserted village. 


6 "Ottawa Bar," below Forbestown, on the South Fork of the Feather River. Across the 
Plains, 121-122. 

7 This canon is apparently the one about a mile and a half above Enterprise. Cf. p. 92. 

8 Shakespeare, Othello, I, iii, 90. 

9 That is, up the South Fork of the Feather River. Across the Plains, 119. 



Sacramento City, March 2, 1850. 1 

Dear Free Trader: — I think the last time I wrote you was from my 
fortress on Mud Hill (the first mountains from the Valley below my 
winter quarters), where I lay mud-bound watching "the sun by day 
and the moon by night" 2 for a propitious moment when I might 
slide home between the showers. The time at length arrived when 
the road became firm enough to entitle it to the name of terra firma, 
and I moved my boots with my wagon and its load of truck and 
plunder to Dawlytown. There, to compensate me for the weeks of 
toil I had endured in getting up from the city, the pleasant bath I 
took in the Yuba, where I very nearly lost my life, wagon, goods 
and cattle, another three weeks of repose was decreed me by the 
Fates in the shape of neuralgia, with which I suffered all the pain of 
"Goblins damned," 3 but which Dr. Willoughby 4 assured me would 
leave me in better health than I had seen for years. Thus far his 
predictions have been verified, and I am now capable of enduring 
more fatigue than I ever was before, and Heaven knows I have en- 
countered it. An excursion in the mountains about the 1st of Janu- 
ary followed, which occupied a week, during which it rained night 
and day constantly, and increased the weight of our packs most 
sensibly, although "we carried weight" without it, consisting of 
seven days' rations (which we ate up in six, and feasted on cold 
water on the seventh), our firearms, ammunition and prospecting 
tools. We penetrated about fifty miles among the hills, wading 
through snow, fording streams deeper than our boots, clinging to 
rocks in passing precipices, keeping a good lookout for the natives, 
who were ready to "pink" us if caught napping, and faring sumptu- 
ously upon hard bread. 

I made one happy discovery — that the mountains are decidedly 
the most cold-water country I ever saw, and I give it as my decided 
opinion — mark me — it is only my own private opinion from which 

1 Free Trader, May 18, 1850. 

2 Cf. Psalms cxxl: 6. 

3 Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, iv, 40. 

4 Dr. D. W. C. Willoughby (1814-1875). Born in Vermont, he studied medicine and 
settled in Indiana, whence he crossed the plains to California in 1849. He died in San 
Francisco. San Francisco Aha California, August 9, 1875. 


all men may differ — that temperance societies are not needed in 
those elevated ranges, that it is wholly useless to preach temperance 
principle upon those mountain peaks. I arrived at this important 
conclusion from two simple facts — first, because there are neither 
grog shops nor people there, and second, the most confirmed tippler 
cannot carry enough of the "ardent" with him to last a week, and he 
is compelled to use no other beverage than pure cold water. We 
finally made a claim on two bars on the South Fork of Feather River 
which are held by our company of nine men and where we are now 
engaged in the work which brought us to California. These bars of 
which I speak are low places along the river bank where a deposit 
of sand, gravel and loose rock was made by the water and where an 
opportunity is given to cut a race by which to drain the stream from 
its bed. The gold, being deposited from the hills by the rains and 
mountain rills into the river, is carried by the current into eddies, 
holes or pockets, so that it is generally found most abundant in the 
main bed of streams, and when the water can be turned off it has 
generally been found to yield a golden harvest. Of course these bars 
are sought for and it is considered fortunate to obtain one. The 
South Fork of Feather River had been but little prospected until 
late last fall, and as late as December there were but three or four 
cabins for the distance of twenty miles above Dawlytown. I started 
out the moment my health permitted, though at great risk, the sec- 
ond day of January, when to our great surprise we found a cabin 
nearly every mile and sometimes little settlements of five to ten 
houses, so great had been the rush up to the Fork when its deposits 
became known. — These were almost wholly those persons who had 
remained on Long's and Bidwell bars (the latter where I made my 
first debut) and who had supplied themselves with provisions to re- 
main in the mountains during the winter, thus having the advantage 
of those who might come on in the spring. When I arrived at Bid- 
well's or Dawlytown from my last trip to the city, a great change had 
taken place. Tents and people had disappeared, and the population 
was reduced nearly three fourths, but on going up the Fork I found 
a great part of our old friends in various locations, living snugly in 
comfortable log cabins on their claims. The utmost respect is paid 
by miners to each other's claim. Some little difficulty occurred last 
fall between two companies respecting the right to a claim or a por- 
tion of it, when a general convention was called at the Oregon Bar 
on the South Fork on New Year's day, for the purpose of defining 
what constituted a claim and to have a general and mutual under- 
standing with regard to each other's rights. Among intelligent and 
liberal men, this matter was soon settled upon just and equitable 

Every man or company making a claim to a bar or to portions, to 
put up three written notices giving the boundary of his claim. He 


then must take actual possession within ten days and commence his 
work in some tangible form so that it was apparent he would be a 
bona fide occupant and not claim to the exclusion of others. He then 
registered his name or bar on the books of the Association (thus 
formed) and became a member, and in the event of others attempt- 
ing to drive him off, he was entitled to the protection of all the com- 
panies constituting the Association. He was allowed all the bed of 
the stream which he drained to a medium stage of water and then 
ten feet front and thirty back from that point. This is a general out- 
line of the plan, although there are of course a few minor details as 
the condition of things required, but this is looked to and spoken of 
along the river with as much deference and respect as if it was the 
law of the land. Indeed, as things are now situated in the mines, an 
action of Congress or of our own Legislature is wholly unnecessary, 
and if either undertakes to erect a Miners' Code without practical 
experience, I shall then look for difficulties which will not occur so 
long as the miners are left to themselves. 5 

As soon as we made our claims, we commenced preparations to 
establish them; in due time our cabins were built, although we had 
to pack our provisions about fifteen miles, over hills that a mule 
could scarcely pass, and our two races are nearly completed, ready 
to put in our dams as soon as the spring floods subside. I never was 
so much exposed, never worked so hard, never fared so roughly as 
I did during those preliminary arrangements, and it seemed as if my 
health and strength gained with the emergency, and I now find my- 
self in more comfortable quarters than I have been in since I have 
been in California. 

Time will not permit me to give you an account of the flood this 
winter, but I will simply say that from a high mountain, from which 
I had an extended view, I estimated that at least one quarter of this 
Earthly Paradise, this charming and fertile Valley (oh!) was under 
water. Hundreds of cattle and mules were drowned and floated 
down to rejoice with the aromatic scent of their putrid carcasses the 
refined olfactory nerves of the citizens of Sacramento and other 
towns springing up on the River — (where's Mr. Bryant?), and the 
loss of property in Sacramento City by the overflow has been very 
great. For a particular description of the scene here I must refer you 
to the N. O. True Delta, whose able and talented correspondent was 
an eye-witness. 6 Among the indignants of the city when the flood 
was bearing off tents, houses, &c, the Methodist church turned 
around on its foundation like a dancing master on his heel as if in 

5 A comprehensive account of California miners' codes and their operation is given in 
Charles H. Shinn, Mining Camps: A Study in American Frontier Government (New 
York, 1948; original ed., 1883). 

6 Colonel Grant. For the great Sacramento flood of 1850 (and the ones of 1852, 1853, 
1861, and 1878) see History of Sacramento (Oakland, 1880), 66-73. 


high dudgeon to enquire of the neighboring dwelling as they were 
about departing: 

Ye graceless chiefs, where are ye goin' 
While I am here sae busy sowin'? — (Burns — not quite) , 7 
and a steamboat has put a blush on all the canals in Amsterdam, 
for it actually puffed through the main street and discharged its 
cargo into Starr, Bensley and Company's store. 8 

Learning that a "change came o'er the spirit of my dream" 9 with 
regard to the honesty of some of our Californians, and that they 
were stealing cattle on the plains, with a Digger-like propensity, to 
supply the places of their own lost ones, I thought it best to go 
"down into Egypt" 10 and look after my own, which had been turned 
out after I reached Dawlytown in the fall. I succeeded in finding 
three and, driving them back, brought my wagon to the Valley, and 
disposed of the whole concern, believing that my prospects in the 
mines are better than trading. As I had to come halfway to Sacra- 
mento to find a market I just kept on to see if it were not possible to 
find a letter from home. I may as well say that I have been dis- 
appointed, and the only letter which I have received since I left 
Ottawa from any friend was one from my wife dated August 25. 
This I walked fifteen miles to get when I heard of the arrival of the 
Express a week ago, and I would have walked a hundred for another 
with the greatest pleasure. 

I have written the Free Trader by every opportunity while cross- 
the plains, have sent a full (or nearly full) copy of my journal from 
leaving the Missouri up to my arrival in California, 11 and several 
other letters, and I have not received even a paper from Ottawa. Of 
course this must be the fault of the mails, and not of my friends. I 
arrived here day before yesterday at night. — Yesterday morning on 
going into the street I met Charles Fisher, William Irwin, Captain 
Reed 12 and S. B. Gridley from Ottawa, 13 Mr. Reynolds, and Wil- 

7 These are Burns' words, but not his lines. 

8 One of the principal stores at Sacramento. John Bensley (1812-1889), a native of 
Herkimer County, New York, and a graduate of Columbia College, came to California 
in 1849. He organized a water works in San Francisco in 1857, and many other Cali- 
fornia companies. Across the Plains, 127; San Francisco Call, June 21, 1889. 

9 Byron, The Dream. 

10 Genesis xlii: 2. 
n Cf. p. 19. 

12 Henry J. Reed (b. 1814), of Ottawa. He came to La Salle County from Erie, Pennsyl- 
vania, in 1834 and served in the Mexican War, becoming a captain. In 1849 he went to 
California and remained two years, but returned to Ottawa to settle down as a farmer. 
History of LaSalle County, Illinois, 1886, II, 99-100. 

13 Samuel B. Gridley (d. 1876) was prominent for over forty years at Ottawa as a dealer 
in dry goods and manager of a gas company. Ottawa: Old and New, 38, 77; Elmer Blad- 
win, History of LaSalle County, Illinois (Chicago, 1877), 239-240. 


Ham Miller, from South Bend, Indiana, 14 and Colonel Wilson, from 
Mishawaka, Indiana. 15 By some of them I heard of the Dayton 
Company, who have done very well in the mines, and of Mr. Freden- 
burg and B. K. Thorn. The latter I was glad to hear was doing well. 
As a general thing those who have staid in the mines, worked stead- 
ily, and have not run about prospecting all over the country, have 
done something. Those of our South Bend friends that I have met 
have done something — some of them well. — I met Mr. Rood 10 on my 
way down. — He was going to the Yuba mines in high spirits. He has 
located himself at Vernon, twenty-five miles above this place, 17 and 
is well satisfied with what he has done and is doing. W. McNeil is 
with me (in the mines), a kind-hearted, generous man — as good a 
fellow as ever trod shoe leather — "may he live a thousand years." 18 
This is about all the personal news I can give of interest in your 
community — except the death of James Bacon — he died a short 
time ago in Yubaville. I was much surprised on coming to the Valley 
to see the change which a few weeks have wrought by our indefati- 
gable Anglo-Saxons. When I made my trip down from Lawson's in 
September, there were but three houses or ranchos on the road, a 
distance of perhaps an hundred and twenty or twenty-five miles. 
There may have been half a dozen on and off the road in the Valley. 
Now there is a house every five or six miles, not only on the road 
where water can be obtained even where the land has been over- 
flowed, but from Vernon down houses appear nearly every mile, and 
I was assured that this was the case at least seventy miles above 

New towns are springing up, defective as titles are, and business 
seems thriving in them all. On reaching the Yuba, I found the town 
of Marysville, where three months ago only an adobe house ex- 
isted; a mile below on the Feather is Yuba City, which at that time 
did not contain a house; two miles below this Eliza, just commenced 
and buildings going up rapidly; at Bear Creek, where I lost an ox 
last fall in a swamp, a town plot is being surveyed, and at the mouth 

14 William Miller went overland from South Bend to California in 1849 and remained 
until 1852, when he returned to South Bend to become a successful contractor, miller, 
banker, and mayor. Goodspeed Bros., Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and 
St. Joseph Counties, Indiana (Chicago, 1893), 672. 

15 Charles Lincoln Wilson (1813-1890). Born in Maine, he crossed the plains and moun- 
tains to San Francisco in 1849 and brought the first steamer to the upper waters of the 
Sacramento River, all the way to Lassen's. He was the first promoter of a Sacramento 
Valley railroad. Sacramento Themis, December 20, 1890. 

16 Walter D. Rood, from the Ottawa region. "In 1849 he went to California with the 
Green party. Twenty years later he returned to LaSalle County." Ottawa: Old and New, 

17 The name Vernon was changed to Verona in 1906. Gudde, California Place Names. 

18 William McNeil, of Ottawa. Free Trader, February 9, 1850; Across the Plains, 119, 


of Feather River, where late in the fall only a ranch existed, Nico- 
laus is laid out, houses going rapidly up, and lots selling off like hot 
cakes. 10 At the upper towns lots sell for from five hundred to three 
thousand dollars, and so with the lower towns. Although this city 
has been under water, lots are still advancing and improvements 
going on continually. A levee will be built around it to keep out the 
floods, and it must always be a town of importance, but in all these 
places the time will, must, come when the bubble will burst and 
many individuals be ruined. 

During the flood a large portion of the Valley was overflowed be- 
tween the Yuba and Bear Creek. A Mr. Spencer, at whose house I 
stopped in my peregrination, told me he was obliged to crawl onto 
the roof of his house to save himself, although it stands at least 
thirty feet above the river, and that a neighbor sailed in a boat back 
to the mountains, some twelve or fifteen miles. — Now, the roads are 
good, the grass green, and the plain dotted with herds of cattle, 
where a few days ago all was a wide waste of turbid water. 

And this is the charming Valley you have read so much of at 
home, as surpassing everything else in loveliness. I am much amused 
at the sage remarks of some of the New York editors, respecting 
California. In speaking of the gold after its exhaustion, they dilate 
upon its agricultural capacities, its central position, its high destiny, 
&c. (Well, I reckon it is about in the middle of the earth, if you begin 
to measure exactly opposite, &c.) It is no more fit for farming pur- 
poses than I am for preaching. Exhaust the gold and it will no 
longer attract ships to its shore only to carry back the poor devils 
who are caught here in search of El Dorado, and instead of ships 
taking in cargoes of tea at San Francisco, they will quietly pursue 
their way from the Atlantic ports through the Isthmus canal, if it is 
built; if not, around the Cape, wind and weather permitting, to Can- 
ton, and receive their lading as usual from the brother of the sun and 
moon, and seven stars, and other planets. But as the auctioneer 
says, "I can't dwell;" nobody will believe it till they come and see — 
come then and get all the gold you can, for sure enough that is here, 
if you can get it; then you may talk understanding^ of its high 
destiny and superior advantages over your really rich, beautiful and 
fertile prairies at home. Had I not seen them I might have thought 
the Valley of the Sacramento beautiful, but I have seen them. — 
Beauty is a comparative quality, and by that standard I judge. 

Among the most pleasant acquaintance which I have formed in 
this "never-saw-the-like country" is that of Joseph Grant, Esq., the 
accomplished correspondent of the True Delta. 

10 This town was named after Nicolaus Allgeier, a Hudson's Bay trapper who came to 
California in 1840, worked for Sutter, and settled here about 1846. Hanna, Dictionary of 
California Land Names. Colonel Grant advertised lots at Nicolaus. Sacramento Tran- 
script, October 8-20, 1850. 


Misery makes strange bedfellows, saith the adage, and a day's 
walk together in the mountains during the rains, and a night spent 
in company at my ranch on Mud Hill, opened the door of our 
hearts, and we walked into an intellectual feast that I shall never 
forget. I do not mean to eulogize any man, but here where there are 
so many castes, shades and qualities, and when hardships have been 
mutually endured, and you find a man stands upon his own bottom 
through it all without flinching, your heart will warm towards him 
in spite of you. Picture to yourself a well-educated, well-bred, open- 
hearted gentleman, one of much thought, originality of mind, just 
conceptions, with a rare knowledge of human nature as it is, dress 
him up in a California suit with a blanket strapped to his back, and 
a bag of hard bread and raw pork under his arm, and put him to 
climbing high hills or driving into deep gorges in a pouring rain, and 
you have Colonel Grant in the mountains. 

Take the same person in the city, gathering a crowd around him 
by original and droll harangues, raising a laugh by his witticisms, 
assuming a care-for-nothing demeanor, selling city lots, holding 
rancho meetings of his own appointment, where he elects himself 
President, Secretary, committee of the whole, and keeps a large 
audience amused and interested two hours on a stretch by his oddi- 
ties, leaving you to doubt whether his eccentricity is real or feigned, 
while he sells you a town lot or a package of papers. While you may 
be conning it in your mind, he may offer you a paper to relieve 
someone in distress, for some charitable object, something of para- 
mount good, and here you cannot doubt his real feelings, for nature 
is in it, and you find yourself obliged to respect him at home. Then 
to his personal friends — if he ever gets rich, and I think he is in a 
fair way to, he will want to make them rich too. You will never find 
the author of those letters in the street, nor the odd eccentric in the 
study. The body may be visible along the sidewalk, but the author 
and man of reflection is at home in the social circle. 

A queer portrait, isn't it? but I believe it a just one and I value his 
acquaintance for his real talents and kindness. 

A droll misfortune occurred a few nights ago to a miner three or 
four miles from us. He lay sleeping in his tent on the ground, when 
he was awakened by something twitching his pantaloons. Opening 
his eyes, he saw a wolf of the coyote species with his purse contain- 
ing two or three hundred dollars in gold dust in his mouth. He 
sprang up, but the varmint ran off clear with the purse, and the poor 
fellow lost it entirely. The purse was made of dried deerskin and he 
supposes had partially worked out of his pocket as he lay on the 
ground, and the wolf, smelling the skin, seized it and drew it out 
and was off before the man could collect himself sufficiently to 
rescue it. 

A good joke occurred not long since, illustrating life in California 


this winter. During the rains, boats occasionally ascend Feather 
River with supplies nearly to the mountains. My neighbor and 
friend, Mr. Dawly, who is trading, has associated with a jovial, 
good-hearted man yclept Captain Freeland, late of the U. S. Army, 
and as brave a man as any who was at the storming of Chapultepec. 
They have a boat on the river, and Captain Freeland happened to 
be below and on his way to the city. One afternoon the hands on 
board wanted some fresh meat, and Freeland and the captain of the 
boat went on shore to try to kill a deer. A short walk brought them 
to the open plain where they discovered two men butchering a wild 
ox. "Ah, my fine fellow, we've caught you at it," shouted Freeland. 
"We have you now sure enough." Much to his surprise, the two men 
seized their arms, &c, and started off at full run across the plain. 
The secret was out. They had stolen the ox, and supposing Freeland 
and his companion to belong to the ranch and the owners, they took 
to their heels. Freeland and the captain walked up and finished the 
butchering and took possession of the beef and carried it to the boat 
and were supplied with all the fresh meat they wanted for many a 
day. My time has expired, and I can give you no more on dits now. 
You will hear from me from time to time. Direct your papers and 
letters to me at Sacramento City — I may stand a remote chance of 
getting them. 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 


Ottawa Bar, March 12, 1850. 1 

Dear Sir — Without offering any other apology for trespassing on 
your time than my own inclination and the kind remembrances of 
our acquaintance, I sit down on a rainy day to write you of Cali- 
fornia. It is quite likely that you are, ere this, surfeited with such 
news, for it must be that the papers are filled with the lucubrations 
of a multitude of letter-writers, but the changes in this recently ex- 
plored country are so great that it would almost be a constant occu- 
pation for a man to keep pace with them with his pen. The great 
emigration last year has indeed wrought great changes in the aspect 
of things socially and politically, and the vast crowd that we learn 
is coming out the present season will not experience the same hard- 

1 Free Trader, May 18, 1850. The editor accounts for the formal tone of this letter by 
explaining that it was written to Judge John D. Caton (1812-1895), of Ottawa. He was 
born at Monroe, New York, practiced law at Utica, and in 1839 went to Illinois, where he 
was Justice of the State Supreme Court, 1842-1864. Dictionary of American Biography. 
Delano signs the letter "Fraternally yours," indicating that Caton was a brother in the 
I.O.O.F., and commends his family "to the care of my brethren." Cf. Ottawa: Old and 
New, 156-157. 


ships and destitution on their arrival that we did, although they will 
have enough, God knows, to curse the day they set out. On our 
arrival in the Valley last year, there were but four ranchos on the 
road for a distance of two hundred miles (from Reading's diggings 2 
to Sacramento City), and now there are stopping places and towns 
at convenient distances along the whole route where the necessaries 
of life can be obtained, although at exorbitant rates, while that 
character for unheard-of honesty among the people in towns where 
thousands of dollars worth of property lay continually exposed 
night and day is undergoing a change. A recent visit to Sacramento 
made me cognizant of the great and rapid change three months had 
produced. I found towns springing up along the banks of the navi- 
gable streams, with speculation rife in town lots as you ever knew 
it in the city where ninety days ago not a single house stood. Lots are 
selling in these newly laid-out towns from five hundred to three or 
four thousand dollars, with titles not worth a pin, and the whole 
country in my humble opinion is bound to be a scene of litigation 
and a sea of trouble. The whole domain of the inhabitable portions 
of Alta California consists chiefly of the Sacramento and San Joa- 
quin Valleys. But a small portion of these are any way suited for 
agricultural purposes, and much of that even is overflowed by the 
floods of winter and spring, and this whole country is in the hands 
of a few, say forty or fifty men, who claim the territory under Mexi- 
can grants. Sutter, for instance, lays claim to a hundred square 
miles, Lawson to ten, Davis to as much more, while Neal, 3 Potter 4 
and Reading take the rest, occupying — rather claiming, the Valley 
of the Sacramento from Sacramento City to Reading's mines. The 
southern portions of the country are held in the same way by the 
very few. In the meantime the emigration of last year is here and 
many who came with families for the purpose of making a perma- 
nent home, and others who, unable to dig or disappointed in min- 
ing, are disposed to work on lands which they thought originally 
belonged to our government, have taken possession upon the prin- 
ciple and are warned off by these Mexican claimants. Men who 
have braved the perils of an overland journey to this country and 
who, perhaps, are unable to return, will have a home. 

They would be willing that these claimants and pioneers should 
have a princely fortune, perhaps, but they will have an abiding place 

2 On Clear Creek in present-day Shasta County. Pierson B. Reading (1816-1869) came 
overland to California in 1843, worked for Sutter as clerk and chief of trappers, and 
secured the grant of Santa Buenaventura rancho in 1844. Reading served in the California 
Battalion, 1846-1847, as a major, and ran for governor in 1851. Bancroft, History of 
California, V, 689. 

3 Samuel Neal (d. 1859) came to California in 1844, worked for Sutter, and received a 
Mexican grant near present-day Chico. He helped Fremont in the insurrection of 1846. 
Sacramento Union, August 22-23, 30, 1859; Bancroft, History of California, IV, 752. 

4 John Potter settled in the Chico region, 1844-1846, and in 1848 profitably employed 
Indians in the mines. He died about 1851. Bancroft, History of California, IV, 783. 


for themselves, their wives and children, and any attempt to dis- 
lodge them will produce a combination and union which will re- 
quire a military force to break up. Should the government recognize 
these Mexican grants, it places the multitude at the mercy of the 
few, engrafting in fact the peon system of Mexico or the feudal 
tenure of Europe upon our republican institutions in California, 
making a few lords of the soil with a multitude of dependents upon 
their will, a state of things to which our Anglo-Saxon race are 
strangers and to which they will not submit. Should the government 
not acknowledge the right of these Mexican claims, and assume the 
fee simple of the soil in itself, and by its justice and liberality con- 
firm the squatters in their professions even by paying a fixed price 
for their lands, much of the difficulty will be obviated, and so too 
even if government concurs in the validity of those claims, if it will 
buy out the claimants and then confirm to the present occupants the 
righ of pre-emption. In this unsettled state of things, towns are laid 
out, lots and ranches change hands, and at prices, too, that cannot 
be sustained even in this land of gold; so that when the bubble 
bursts, as it surely will, litigation, failures and trouble must ensue, 
making a paradise for lawyers and a hell for clients. 5 1 do not antici- 
pate for California that high destiny which many of our citizens at 
home do. I have read several plausible and well-written editorials 
upon the subject in various city papers, but they originated with 
men either interested in some scheme or unacquainted with the 
actual condition of the country. I believe that in political economy 
every prosperous State must depend upon its own proper resources 
for its prosperity. For instance, New England has its waterpower, 
its wool, &c; the Middle Western and Southern states have their 
crops, timber, wool, coal, tobacco, sugar, &c, &c, to give employ- 
ment to the shipping of our seaboard. As an agricultural country, 
California will amount to nothing. The climate and most of the soil 
is antagonistic, and an ordinary population must be fed and clothed 
by importation. Its true source of wealth is in its mines, and so long 
as they continue prolific, commerce to a certain extent will be drawn 
to its shores. Its being a halfway house to China amounts to noth- 
ing. A merchant in New York fitting out a ship for a load of tea will 
avail himself of the Isthmus canal when completed, but intsead of 
purchasing a cargo at San Francisco, paying there a commission and 
profit, storage, &c, will send his ship direct as usual to Canton, and 
buy from first hands, and then return by the usual route to New 
York, rather than make a forty or fifty days' sail out of the way of 
San Francisco. If a railroad is even built from the States, it cannot 
compete in prices of freight with steamships or sail vessels and pay 
a profit to the San Francisco dealer. A railroad, however, will bene- 

5 Cf. Royce, op. cit. 


fiit the traveling community and be beneficial as a communication. 
The gold mines are the true and legitimate source of wealth of Cali- 
fornia, and after their exhaustion, you may mark the decline of this 
unjustly praised country. It may reach a mushroom growth, but it 
will eventually be thrown upon its own resources and sink to its own 
proper level. Oregon will be substantially benefited; for there, wheat 
can be grown and its waterpower will produce the flour to feed 
California, while its manufactures of woolen goods will be ex- 
changed for the mineral wealth of its sister State. 

I found in my recent visit below that great anticipations were 
formed as to the amount of gold to be raised the coming season in 
the mines. This, I think, will be in some measure justified. A much 
larger number of persons are engaged in the mines, than heretofore 
— new mines are opened — new discoveries are made, and the use of 
quicksilver will be more general than usual in mining. The use of 
the latter in separating the gold from the sand is beginning to be 
understood, and the quality of fine gold obtained by its aid is nearly 
doubled while the expense is but little increased. Bars that have been 
worked over in the old mode by the common rocker will pay well 
with a quicksilver machine. 

I have heard of some extraordinary results, and we shall work the 
bars in which I am concerned in that way, though you will always 
bear in mind that no gold can be obtained only by hard labor, priva- 
tion and hardships. 

There are two things which cannot be ascertained with any cer- 
tainty — the actual number of men engaged in the mines and the 
amount of gold raised. I have seen statements of arrivals of gold in 
the United States, and the average amount is sometimes compared 
with the numbers who left the States. Now the fact is that thousands 
who came over are not engaged in mining, while a large amount of 
that which is raised goes to Oregon, Mexico, Chile and South 
America, the Sandwich Islands, China and Europe without even 
passing through the United States. This drain of gold to foreign na- 
tions might be stopped by an action of our government, in which it 
would be heartily seconded by the American population here. I 
surely can see no more injustice in such a measure than in forbid- 
ding foreigners from cutting timber on our public lands. There is 
one thing which even our government may find a difficulty in carry- 
ing out, and that is the laying out of mines in lots. This is a matter 
which has already regulated itself, and miners have made their own 
laws, which are as much respected as any action of Congress can be, 
for they are founded upon justice and equity. 

It amounts simply to about this: that a man is entitled to work 
bona fide that portion of a stream he actually turns from its bed, and 

6 To Sacramento the previous October. 


the streams are of such a nature that very extensive claims cannot be 
made, while numerous bars afford room for many occupants. No 
set of men, without being acquainted with localities and the "modus 
operandi" of mining, can make good laws regulating claims. The 
wisest thing Congress can do, at present at least, is to pass the sub- 
ject "sub silentoT 7 Knowing, as you do, the character of the miners, 
you will not wonder at the order and good feeling that pervades 
generally throughout, and so far I have known of no difficulty of a 
serious nature since my residence in the mines. A mint is much 
needed here, for now gold dust sells at sixteen dollars per ounce, 
when its actual value is eighteen to twenty dollars, and then in pur- 
chasing drafts in addition to that rate for gold we are obliged to pay 
from five to ten per cent, premium, or at that rate, for the transpor- 
tation of gold dust to the States. 

At the close of the digging season last fall a large portion of the 
miners went to Sacramento and San Francisco. The most of these 
were men who had come into the mines late and had barely accumu- 
lated a few hundred dollars, while the high price of provisions made 
them fancy that while they could not subsist in the mines, the more 
moderate rates in the cities would enable them to get through the 
winter with their slender means. Among them, however, were many 
who had made nothing and who depended on their labor there for 
support. The consequence was, those places were soon filled with 
a needy crowd. Wages fell, for there was no business at that season, 
and want and suffering and starvation stared them full in the face. 
The dissipations, too, of the city induced many who had a little 
money to indulge, and they were soon left penniless. And then came 
the other alternative. Stealing became as common as before it had 
been unknown, and property was no longer safe in being exposed, 
and it now has to be guarded with the same care as in a civilized 
country, where law and order prevail. I am happy to say that in the 
mines things in this respect remain in "statu quo." — Gambling, too, 
maintains its foothold in the old towns as well as the new. Every 
public house, every saloon (and there are multitudes of splendid 
ones), has its band of music to attract a crowd and a row of gamb- 
ling tables around their spacious halls. I know of a young man who 
had worked till he had got $ 1 8,000 and started for home. On reach- 
ing Sacramento, he placed $16,000 in the hands of a friend to keep 
while he took the $2,000 and went to the monte table. He soon lost 
it, and went to his friend and took the $16,000 to redeem his luck. 
This he lost also, and instead of going home, his own folly forced 
him back into the mines a penniless wretch. 

Another went in with his fall's labor in his pocket, about $1,600 
or $1,800. This he soon lost, and with perfect sang froid he ex- 

7 Silently. 


claimed — "Gentlemen, you have got all my money — give me an 
ounce to get back to the mines with." The gambler handed him 
sixteen dollars without a word, and the poor fool went back to his 
labor and his privations again. These occurred but a few days ago. 

Living has been very dear in the country; if a man could make 
each day pay its way during the winter, he was doing well on the 
whole. Those who remained in the mines through the winter were 
those chiefly who had been able and fortunate enough to secure 
provisions before the rains set in. Yet many trusted to luck for sup- 
plies. — I know two men who paid out $1,400 from the middle of 
November to the middle of February for their provisions alone. This 
is easily enough accounted for by flour $300 per bbl., pork $200, 
sugar $1 per pound, molasses $12 per gallon, vinegar $5, potatoes 
75c. to $1.25 per pound, &c. &c. My recent trip to Sacramento and 
back actually cost me a hundred dollars, traveling expenses, though 
I slept on the ground and indulged in no luxuries, and it is only one 
hundred miles. I walked all the way down to within twenty-five miles, 
and when I came back I rode about half way in the steamboat and 
walked the rest. I paid an ounce to have a bag of clothes carried 
twelve miles. The price of a meal is now $1.50 everywhere, a 
chance to sleep under a tent or roof $1.00, and you have to find 
your own bedding and blankets. At only two places in California 
have I ever found milk for my coffee, and I never saw butter on the 
dinner table. A common (and very common too) dried apple pie 
costs a dollar, a small baker's loaf, fifty cents. If you feel aristocratic 
enough to indulge in oysters, half a dozen costs $1.50. By the way, 
I never go within smelling distance of them, they smell so strong of 
the pocket. Oranges are from 75c. to $1 each, ale and cider 25c. 
per glass, so that it pays a man to drink nothing but cold water. We 
pay 50c. to get our letters carried to a post office, and if any are 
brought back (a circumstance which has happened to me in only 
one solitary instance) we pay from $1 to $2, as we can light upon 
chaps, 8 and 40c. postage. Do you not think the mines ought to yield 
well to live in such a country? I know of four men who washed out 
$100,000 in four weeks, sold their claim for $1,000, which was 
paid in two days, and $4,000 taken out before the rains set in. I 
have picked up gold on a sidehill after a rain, but in quantity too 
small to pay. As an offset I know of hundreds who have made noth- 
ing in weeks of hard labor, of those who have died miserably for 
want of medicine and mere necessaries, and those whose constitu- 
tions are ruined forever before they could earn a dollar. Such is 
California now, and such will be the fate of thousands that are rush- 
ing in from the States with high hopes and bright anticipations. I 
had no idea of inflicting a letter upon you of such unconscionable 
length, and although there is still much left untold, I will not trespass 

8 Find someone to pay. 


longer on your patience. I am in better health than I have been in 
five years, though I have had a severe acclimation, and I have at 
least a year of hard labor before me in working out the bars I have 
become possessed of. During my uncertain absence, I commend my 
family to the care of my brethren, and I do not doubt that they will 
receive from you such attention as your kindness of heart will prompt 
you to bestow. My kind regards to Mrs. C.° I need scarcely say that 
I shall be glad to hear from you. Direct all communications to 
Sacramento City. 

Fraternally yours, 

A. Delano. 

9 Laura Adelaide Sherrill Caton (d. 1892); she was married in 1835. Ottawa: Old and 
New, 90; U. S. Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery: Illinois Volume (Chicago, 
1876), 8-9. 


Ottawa Bar, Feather River, 1 
March 22, 1850. 

If California at this moment has little real claim to notoriety 
among the countries of the globe, it may be entitled the land of inci- 
dents, for you can scarcely make a journey of twenty miles without 
meeting some adventure worthy a paragraph. It was during a walk 
of ten miles in the mountains, through a drizzling rain in November, 

that I became acquainted with our mutual friend, G . 2 My 

wagon and goods lay mudbound on the brow of the first mountain 
above the Valley, and I had built a bower (not of roses) by the 

1 True Delta, June 6, 1850. 2 Grant. 


roadside, waiting the course of the storms, hoping there might be a 
cessation of strife between the sun and rain long enough to enable 
me to get up to my location at Dawlytown. It was during a casual 

visit to my headquarters that I saw Mr. G , and on my return 

he was my companion and guest for the night. It is by his request 
that I write you, though the subject is an "oft-told tale" and noth- 
ing new can well be added. I speak of California — of California as I 
found it. Not the land of Ophir, where Solomon got his gold, nor of 
the dwelling-place of the Genius of Aladdin, but simply of one 
hundred and thirty miles of the famed Valley of the Sacramento and 
of the neighboring mountains which I have traveled over. I am one 
of that class of nomad Anglo-Saxons who, in their modest desire of 
obtaining sudden wealth by picking the golden lumps from the 
piles which the mountain groaned under here (once), crossed the 
plains last summer, and in order to get to the gold region before all 
others, took the cut-off to Feather River, about sixty-five miles 
above the sink of Mary's River. 3 For this happy hit, I had the pleas- 
ure of going four hundred miles further than by the old road; of 
living three weeks on hard bread and coffee, and nothing else; of 
fighting Indians nearly all the way; and finally of reaching the con- 
fines of El Dorado four weeks later than those who kept the "even 
tenor of their way" 4 on the old route. All that I had read of the 
Valley of the Sacramento, previous to leaving the States, was highly 
in favor of its beauty, the fertility of its soil, the salubrity of its cli- 
mate, and the clearness of its atmosphere, all of which led me to 
expect a kind of natural Eden, and by passing many weeks on bar- 
ren sand plains, nearly destitute of vegetation, or crossing rocky 
and barren mountains, I was in a good condition to appreciate any 
change for the better. The view from the mountain, as far as I could 
see, was pleasant, but I thought at the moment that it would not 
compare with the rich views of many of our western prairies; and I 
think so still. The following is a short extract from my journal on 
the day I reached the Valley, which is to the point on the first and 
third counts: 

"September 16. — On regaining the road and ascending a high 
hill, the Valley of the Sacramento lay before me, five or six miles 
distant. I could discern green trees and a level bottom, but the day 
was too smoky for an extended view." 

There are trees, and occasionally groves, but in nearly every in- 
stance they are on the banks of the stream, or on soil that is subject 
to being overflowed by the winter floods, or where sloughs or wet 
places moisten the earth sufficiently to afford sap to sustain their 
growth. The trees in the Valley are of the stunted growth; you can 

3 The Lassen Trail left the Humboldt (or Mary's) before the sink. Cf. pp. 16-17, 23. 

4 Cf. Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. 


scarcely find one of eighteen inches in diameter that is sound at the 
butt or fit for staves. They are often large at the butt and branch out 
to an enormous distance, but do not grow tall and thrifty, as we see 
them in the mountains or at home. 

In immediate proximity to the streams, the soil appears fertile, 
and good crops of wheat can be raised if the land can be irrigated. 
But three or four miles from the stream, unless in the vicinity of 
sloughs, the grass is dry and crisp by August, and where any attempt 
is made at farming, deep trenches are dug around the field, from 
some creek, to irrigate the dry and parched soil. I have not seen any 
as large potatoes here even as is common at home, and they can 
grow only in the neighborhood of streams. 

Extract 2. — "For some miles after reaching the Valley the ground 
was covered with round stone and debris which appeared to have 
been originally thrown out by some volcano, and then washed by 
floods to their present place of deposit." 

I say without hesitation, let no man come here for agricultural 
speculation while there is a corner left between the Alleghenies and 
the Platte. The soil is no better than the prairies of Indiana, Illinois 
and Missouri, while rain rarely falls between June and November. 

In speaking of the salubrity of the climate, Mr. Bryant says (I 
quote from memory) that "the purity of the air is such that dead 
carcasses of animals emit no offensive smell." 5 

This may be so on the Coast, for I have not yet been there; but 
unless Mr. B.'s olfactory nerves are hopelessly disordered, he must 
be convinced by this time that it will not apply to the Valley of the 
Sacramento. The stench around Sacramento City in September and 
October was almost insufferable, arising from putrid carcasses of 
mules and oxen that had perished in the mire of the slough on the 
north side of the city, and nowhere in the Valley where I have been, 
have I found it different in this respect from the States. So far as my 
observation extends I should judge that five sixths of the emigrants 
from the States have suffered from sickness — bloody flux, diarrhea, 
and chills and fever, and I have been told by those who have lived 
here three and four years that they are subject to the same diseases. 
This must always be so, for the fervid heat of the summer sun pro- 
duces rapid decay of vegetable and animal matter along the low 
grounds, and the cold nights are on the other extreme, which no 
prudence can obviate. I never saw so much suffering and misery 
from disease in all my life as I have seen during a five months' resi- 
dence in California. 

A great share of those who arrived in the Valley and the mines in 
good health were, more or less, stricken by disease, and I could give 
you many heart-rending individual cases. It is more than an even 

5 Cf. p. 27. 


chance that every emigrant must be sick after his arrival. No doubt 
exposure and bad diet contribute much in producing disease, but 
the very nature of the climate, the extremes between the heat of the 
day and the cold night air, must make it unhealthy. You may lay 
down in the evening without a rag of covering over you, and before 
morning you may be shivering in your blanket in August. In sum- 
mer, many of the mountain streams are dry, and in going down the 
Valley from Lawson's to Sacramento City, the traveler often suffers 
for water, and sometimes when he finds it, it is in a mud hole, warm 
and unpalatable, so that a flowing creek is looked upon as a gem. I 
append a table of distances from Lawson's to the city (by general 
estimation) on the road, which I made in passing down, showing 
where grass and water was found last September: 

From Lawson's to water in a hole or slough, 6 miles, and 1 mile off 

the road. 
To water — no grass, 4 miles, and half mile off the road. 

water and grass at Potter's ranch 12 miles — 22 miles. 

" " " " to a creek 5 " 

Neal & Ford's r'ch 6 3 " — 8 " 

water, very bad, in a slough hole, a little 

grass 9 

Feather River — water and grass 11 — 20 

'water — no grass, at Burch's 7 8 

water and grass at the Yuba 12 — 20 

water, poor, and inaccessible to cattle, in 

a miry slough, grass good but scanty 10 

Bear River, water and grass good 7 — 17 

water at Nicolaus', no grass 4 — 4 

no water except a stagnant pool, and no 
grass to the American River 30 " — 30 

121 " 
To Sacramento City 3 " 


So you see that you have to travel long distances for water in the 
season you need it most. As for the clearness of the atmosphere, it 

6 Henry L. Ford (1823-1856), a native of Vermont or New Hampshire, came to Califor- 
nia, 1842-1844, and was prominent in the Bear Revolt of 1846. Two years later he settled 
in Tehama County and in 1856 he was accidentally shot and killed. Bancroft, History of 
California, HI, 744. 

" Charles H. Burch is mentioned as having been in California, 1846-1848, around Sutter's 
Fort. Ibid., II, 736. 


may vary, for aught I know, but I give you another extract from 
my journal : 

"Nov. 12: The rain ceased in the night after a week's steady con- 
tinuation, and the air was clear enough, for the first time, to see 
across the Valley. 

"We broke up our camp where we had laid weather-bound for 
a week, and although I was still very weak from the severe attack of 
the flux, I managed to crawl along by the side of my wagon at the 
slow pace at which we were traveling. 

"On ascending a small eminence, we had a distinct view of the 
Coast Range covered with snow, and as far as we could see they 
were a confused mass of high, peaked and broken mountains. It is 
remarkable, chiefly that this is the first day since I entered Califor- 
nia that the weather has been clear enough to see both sides of the 

I do not doubt that in the spring, when the rains have cleared the 
atmosphere of the smoky vapors, fine views are afforded of moun- 
tain scenery as well as of the Valley. The rain commenced on the 
3rd of November, with but slight intimation of its approach. For 
three weeks it rained almost constantly, and then the longest inter- 
val was ten days. January was the worst month, and scarcely two 
days passed in succession without rain. Business led me to the first 
hill about three weeks ago, and from a high mountain from which I 
had an extended view of the Valley, I estimated that about one 
quarter was covered with water. You will receive accounts of Sacra- 
mento City being submerged by the flood, and I need say nothing 
of it here. 

I look upon all praise of the Valley of the Sacramento, for agri- 
cultural purposes, for extreme beauty, for salubrity of climate, or 
for a desirable residence, as being a perfect misnomer. In summer, 
the Valley is an arid plain, except in the immediate vicinity of 
streams; in winter, much of the fruitful portions are under water. 
The mountains have a barren soil, where grass even will not grow, 
only on patches in small valleys, and the hardy pine and cedar, with 
few varieties of oak and mountain shrubs, can alone maintain a 
foothold. Of the two first, they are the finest trees I ever saw of their 
species. I have seen them more than two hundred feet high, and if 
they could be got into the Valley would be as valuable as the gold 
of the mountains. 

It seems to me that the most truthful account of California which 
was published up to 1 849 is of the gold. I do not think the quantity 
and extent of country over which the range passes has been ex- 
aggerated. I think it is a continuation of the golden range from 
South America through to Asia. Instead of being confined to par- 
ticular localities, as far as my observation extends, you may go up 
any of the streams, creeks, or ravines, from the Valley east to a 


certain distance where the depth of the ravine is about the same and 
find it — of course in greater or less quantities, for it does not appear 
to be equally distributed. But exciting as the existence of gold is in 
the mountains, it is by no means certain that anyone can get it. The 
labor of digging it has not been understood, nor the risks and ex- 
posure of finding it appreciated. It does not lay on top of the 
ground to be picked up like acorns under an oak. To begin the 
process then. The gold-hunter must first find a location. 

To do this, he puts five or six days' rations into his knapsack, 
straps his blankets to his shoulders, for nobody moves here without 
his bed on his back, takes a pick, pan and shovel, firearms and 
ammunition, making his load fifty pounds if he is determined to 
succeed before he returns. Then he follows the course of some 
stream up the mountains, climbing high hills, descending deep 
ravines, day after day, sleeping on the ground at night, clambering 
over rocks along the stream, and loosening the dirt with his pick 
occasionally to try his luck. When he finds it in apparent quantity 
to pay for working he returns, in order to get ready to go to work. 

He either gets a mule or takes provisions on his back, and ex- 
ploring a road to his location that a mule can get over, though this 
cannot always be found, he returns to "dig for gold." 

If he works in the bank, he digs down till he comes to the base 
rock or to hard clay, and then washes the dirt nearest to and on the 
rock, and in the crevices. If he works in the bed of the stream, he 
often finds it necessary to turn the water through a side race, which 
is a work of much labor, and then he must move the gravel, rocks 
and stones, sometimes to the depth of six or seven feet, until he 
comes to the bed stone, where the gold is mixed with the last dirt, 
which he washes out. He sometimes finds lumps of gold lodged in 
the crevices after he removes the earth, but as a general thing he 
has to perform a vast deal of hard labor before he gets to the base 
rock. The reason of gold always being at the bottom, you know, is 
because it has more density than sand or gravel, and when it is 
washed by water, of course sinks first. A good deal of mirth has 
been excited among the miners at reading a notice in the papers 
that some wise citizens of Chicago are coming out with a mud ma- 
chine attached to a scow, to scrape up the mud from the bed of the 
Sacramento and wash it for gold. Before they get a scale, they will 
have to scrape the mud to the base rock, and then go down in diving 
bells and dig the dirt out of the crevices with spoons, and then, as 
the Indian said of the white man, it's "mighty onsartain." The miner 
may spend weeks and scarcely get enough to pay his board; and 
this has been the case with, I may well say, thousands the past fall. 
Again: he may be fortunate and strike a good place, and take up 
thousands of dollars. When this last is the case, it is sounded far 
and near; every paper is ringing with it, and more converts to the 


shrine of the California mammon made. But do you hear one word 
trumped forth of those who have labored hard, lived on raw pork 
and hard bread for months, and found nothing (and these are 
many), or of the poor fellow who, coming to the mines with high 
hopes, is stricken by disease before he strikes a blow, when neither 
aid nor medicine, or the shelter of a tent even, can be rendered, and 
he dies, with no "pitying eye to see, no succoring arm to save," un- 
heeded and unknown? I had not been in the mines an hour before I 
loaned my buffalo skin and blanket to two poor fellows lying sick 
with flux and fever, without any shelter over them and a heavy rain 
coming on. One died soon; the other got better, had a relapse and 
died afterwards. When bars are formed in the mountain streams, 
they are worked often advantageously, and when the road to them 
is once made, men rush in and occupy them without the exposure 
of the first explorer. But when the bar is worked out, a general move 
takes place, and men then set out to hunt new locations, either by 
prospecting or going to other known bars. Different districts have 
different regulations as to the quantity of ground a man may oc- 
cupy. It is a general rule, however, if he dams the river and takes 
the water out by a race, he is entitled to all the ground he drains in 
the bed; and although I have not heard of any material difficulty, if 
another party should interfere or attempt to drive him off, he would 
be protected by the other companies near. There is an association 
for that purpose on the South Fork, where I am now settled. There 
are three forks to Feather River: the North Fork, which heads over 
two hundred miles from its confluence with the Sacramento; the 
Middle Fork, rising in the mountains nearly east; and the South 
Fork, the smallest of the three branches, which heads in a south- 
east direction, has a course of from sixty to eighty miles. They all 
unite within six miles of each other, and after passing the mountains 
to the Valley, form a beautiful stream, navigable for boats of four 
or five tons in an ordinary stage of water. It is up the Middle and 
South Fork that the crowds are now rushing. Last fall, there was 
scarcely twenty men at work on this branch, and two months ago 
hardly a cabin along the river. Now, a cabin is built every mile and 
every bar located, and preparations are going on by digging races 
and commencing dams to work the bed of the river in the spring. 
What the ultimate success of the hardy adventurers will be, can only 
be determined on trial. I was fortunate enough to secure an interest 
in two bars, but it was only by worse exposure than I have described 
above. With a load of blankets and provisions on my back, and 
prospecting tools in my hands, I was gone a week, during which it 
rained constantly night and day, except the first day, and our com- 
pany of nine lay out without shelter, living on raw pork and bread, 
keeping a keen look-out for Indians, passing canons, climbing 
rocks, with many such pleasant incidents. We penetrated up the 


mountains about fifty miles, and the Lord only knows how much 
farther we should have gone had our provisions held out; but stom- 
achs are stubborn things to contend with, and we were finally com- 
pelled, by "stress of weather and short allowance," to face about and 
made tracks for the settlements, tying our girths pretty tight about 
us on the last day to keep our stomachs quiet. The result of our 
wild goose chase was a knowledge of the country, a discovery of 
dry diggings on the mountain, a good track for a road, and the loca- 
tion of two bars on the river. And then to take possession of our 
bars before anybody else, a cabin must be built, provisions got up 
over a track that a mule could hardly walk. More labor, more ex- 
posure; but "veni, vidi, vici." We took our rations again, and axes, 
and set out. The logs were cut and rolled together, shingles split out 
of the beautiful pine and put on the roof, a large fireplace and 
chimney built, stools, shelves, bedsteads, and door made, &c, &c, 
all of which occupied about ten days, and it rained most of the time, 
while two more of the company were engaged in getting up pro- 
visions. At last we are comfortably settled in the best quarters which 
I have found in California, with enough to eat, such as it is, a good 
roof over us, and any amount of hard work before us, and perhaps 
not a dollar in either bar to repay our toil, or it may be a fortune. 
But we shall try. 

"To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile, 
Assiduously wait upon her; 
And gather gold by every wile 
That's justified by" — confounded hard work. 8 

The last line doesn't rhyme exactly, but it's "true as preaching." 
So you see an inkling of life in the mines, though the half is not told. 
There is one thing I beg leave to speak of, and that is the perfect 
equality which reigns with us. Sparta could not hold a candle to it. 
The judge, the ex-member of Congress, the lawyer, the merchant, 
the farmer, the mechanic, the sailor, the soldier, the scholar, all 
grades, shades and classes, "mingle, mingle, mingle," and you would 
as often take the dunce for the judge, as the judge for himself. The 
height of fashion is to cook your own grub and carry your own 
basket on your back, while your holiday suit, like my own, is — 
mem. — a soiled buckskin coat, a tattered vest, pants like Noah's 
ark, with a multitude of windows and a large doorway in the seat, 
socks with tops but no bottoms, cowhide boots with your toes peep- 
ing out like frogs to view the weather, while this image of our Maker 
is topped out with a hat that looks as if it had had the ague since it 
was first made, for its rags and tatters seem to have conned the 
beggar's petition by heart — 

8 Cf. Burns, Epistle to a Young Friend. 


Oh, pity the sorrows of a poor old — hat, 
while — but look in that pocket looking-glass — you haven't shaved 
for the last three months. No soap is no excuse; you might have 
singed it off with a burning pine knot. 

Now, Mr. Editor, if you have any doubt of the truth of this de- 
scription of a miner's appearance, just come and see for yourself, 
and I will wager my hat (and if I lose it I shall have none at all) 
against a year's subscription to the True Delta that you will give it 
up. The man after all may have a rough exterior, but a good, true, 
honest heart within. I would like to give you a fine example of this 
if it came within the limits and design of this communication. Below 
the Middle Fork the rock is trachyte, standing vertically, but above, 
on the South Fork, it suddenly changes to granite, partially decom- 
posed, syenite, and large fragments of quartz, which have evidently 
been exposed to intense heat, and frequently on the hillsides and 
mountain tops the ground is covered with fine particles of decom- 
posed granite. Occasionally we find quartz crystals, though not as 
clear as those of the quartz formations in the States, but I have 
found none of the peculiar debris which accompanies the black 
traprock within the range of the Sierra Nevada. Yellow and black 
mica are plentiful, and in some places thin slabs of isinglass. This 
granite formation continued as high up as I penetrated, and appar- 
ently the higher up, the harder and more compact the rock became. 
I have not found a single petrifaction on the river. 

As for the future prospects of California, I say nothing. I have 
here briefly described it as I found it. Commercially, and for its 
mines, it may prove a valuable acquisition; as an agricultural coun- 
try, it cannot amount to much. At present it is in the hands of 
speculators and of men holding large tracts under Mexican grants, 
and, for a time, litigations and law-suits must ensue, and it will be a 
paradise for lawyers. That men should hold from ten to a hundred 
leagues of land is unreasonable, and no free country can flourish 
while nearly all the best soil is in the hands of so few individuals. 
But your own judgment is probably better than mine in this respect, 
and I leave it. 

If a man has health and will work hard, he can make money here 
now. In short, he may get rich soon, or he may find an early death. 
One thing is certain, hardship and privation if he succeeds, and 
probably the same if he fails. A. D. 



Dawlytown, California, April 4, 1850. 1 

On my return from the mountains, I found the water too high for 
mining operations, and we probably shall be unable to do but little 
before the 1st of June, when the rains are over and the snows 
melted. And here is one of the drawbacks upon mining. During the 
winter, no man can work for the rains, and on the streams the 
water continues so high from melting snows and spring rains that, 
on Feather River at least, little or nothing can be done till June. In 
August, the intense heat of the sun drives the miners from the ra- 
vines, so that really about four months of the year only can be taken 
as a maximum for mining on the rivers. 

As high as this stream is worked, it is chiefly done by throwing 
dams across at the head of bars, and the water is turned from its 
bed through a race, and the bed of the stream is then worked out. I 
do not know of a single bar for forty miles up from the Valley, that 
is not claimed by companies who have their races dug and who will 
put in their dams as soon as the water falls sufficiently. Hitherto, 
the common rocker has been in general use, but now quicksilver 
machines are introduced and, by another season, will most prob- 
ably supersede the old cradle. Little or nothing is lost by these ma- 
chines, and the results have sometimes been astonishing, even on 
bars which have been worked over by the old rocker. A new and 
expeditious mode of building dams has been recently introduced 
which promises much success. It is simply filling bags with sand and 
laying them on each other, breaking joints like laying up bricks in 
a wall. They become compact and shut out the water completely, 
while an efficient dam can be built in a few hours. 

As a general thing, the health of those who remained in the mines 
during the winter is good, and those who survived the sickness and 
exposure of last fall are in robust health. Still, whether they will be 
able to stand the labor and intense heat of summer remains to be 
seen. Provisions are now obtained in the mines with much less dif- 
ficulty than they were last fall, and in greater variety, so that the 
meagre diet of the miners can be replaced by that more healthful. 
Trading establishments keep pace with the crowds forcing their way 
into the mountain recesses, and competition is rapidly reducing the 
exorbitant prices which were common last fall. Still prices are high. 
Labor in the mines is worth from ten to twelve dollars per day; a 
single meal, not only in the mountains but in the Valley generally, 

1 True Delta, June 9, 1850. Actually this letter must have been written at Marysville, 
according to the fourth paragraph. 


is $1.50. New towns are springing up at points convenient to the 
mines, and speculations in town lots with dubious titles are as rife 
as they were at home in 1836. 

High water preventing any mining operations, I came down to 
this place a few days ago, where I shall remain until the streams are 
low enough to work in the mines. In November last, there was but a 
single adobe house here. Now there is a town with a population of 
a thousand souls, an active, busy stirring place, at the mouth of the 
Yuba, with a fleet of whale boats, small schooners, and, during the 
floods, daily steamboats, discharging cargoes on the levee. 2 But for 
some of the unique California buildings, wood and cloth combined, 
and the costume and peculiar habits of the citizens, you might well 
fancy yourself still at home in the "land o' the leal." 

One of the peculiar concomitants of a town in Alta California is 
gambling. The most spacious tents and halls are rather gorgeously 
fitted up, decorated with pictures, and at one end a splendid bar 
affords the means of giving courage to the unsophisticated, and 
enables him to lose in a few moments the hard earnings of months 
of toil and privations, while around the room rows of tables stand, 
with piles of money, with various games to "take the stranger in." 
At some of the tables, Mexican women preside at monte, and they 
always get a crowd around them. I was taken a little aback yester- 
day at seeing a young woman perambulating the streets in men's 
attire. I was told she was married. It is certain she has a marvelous 
penchant for wearing the breeches, and her husband might as well 
assume petticoats at once. It is not uncommon to see Mexican wom- 
en astride of horses, and they ride well too. We do not grow fastid- 
ious in such matters, after living among Indians who have worn 
Adam and Eve's morning dresses all their lives. As brandy, ale, 
wine, cider, &c, cost only two bits a drink now, any fool can afford 
to drink, and you would be astonished at the number of such fools 
among us. 

"E'en ministers ha' been ken'd 
At times a rousing whid to vend, 
An nail't wi' scripture," 3 
and I was rather more amused than edified last Sunday by hearing 
a reverend gentleman of the Methodist persuasion holding forth the 
sublime truths of Sacred Writ from a pile of boards in the public 
square and preaching the necessity of regeneration. He kept a drink- 
ing house in one of the back streets, and could at any time give 
practical evidence of the power of spirit. After all this strange med- 
ley of right and wrong, of what we have been taught to look on as 
good or bad, the principle of law and order still exists, and crime, 

2 This could only be Marysville. Cf. Across the Plains, 127-128. 

3 Cf. Bums, Death and Doctor Hornbook. A "whid" is a lie. 


aggression or violent outbreaks are as unusual as in the States; and 
1 do not doubt that, in the course of time, future emigrations, as 
well as the early habits of those now here, will give tone to society 
in California, and out of this chaos a different state of things will be 

A large yield from the mines is anticipated the present season, 
and this is justly predicated upon two reasons. There are many 
more engaged in mining, and the work is carried on more scientifi- 
cally with the use of quicksilver. You cannot judge of the amount of 
gold raised here by quotations from arrivals in the United States. 
Large amounts go to Oregon, the Sandwich Islands, Mexico, South 
America, Europe, and even China, of which you receive no advices. 

That we are advancing in the science of law, especially for the 
punishment of offenders, you will readily acknowledge from one of 
the incidents of the day. Last night, one of the gambling houses of 
this town was slit through with a knife, and some thieves entered 
and stole a trunk belonging to the proprietor, containing a thousand 
dollars. This morning, one of the thieves offered a pistol for sale that 
was in the trunk, which led to his detection and that of an accom- 
plice. A grand jury was summoned, and one of the culprits plead 
guilty. A true bill was found against both, and a petit jury was im- 
panelled forthwith before the alcalde. The tide of fortune was 
against the culprits, and they were sentenced each to receive one 
hundred lashes on the bare back, and, if found in town in the morn- 
ing, a fine of a thousand dollars and two years' labor in the chain 
gang of San Francisco. Sentence was immediately executed. They 
were tied to a tree, their backs laid bare, and a brawny arm soon 
paid them the penalty of dishonesty, much to the edification of a 
large throng of bystanders in the public square. One of them ap- 
peared penitent and was probably young in crime; the other, when 
his back was bared, showed indubitable proof of a former acquaint- 
ance with the cat and no doubt was an old offender. On their dis- 
charge, they disappeared in the crowd and can now go and try their 
light-fingered propensity in some other community. But a small por- 
tion of the money was recovered. As there are no prisons, this is 
the only way of punishment, and this speedy justice will not be 
without its effects upon others. Having an opportunity of sending 
this to Sacramento, I am writing hurriedly. A. D. 



Oleepa, May 8, 1850. 1 

I was most highly gratified a few days since by receiving a letter 
from you, which gave me more news from home than I had received 
in all before. Indeed, the mails seem tired of persecuting me any 
longer, for within the last two months I have received (count with 
your fingers so that you will make no mistake) three letters from my 
wife dated severally August 25, October 21, January 12 — one from 
my sister, 2 December 2, one from Colonel Morgan of New York, 3 
December 18, and you of February 4 — all but the first one and 
Colonel Morgan's came within the last two days, and I have read 
and reread them so often that I have committed them to memory to 
serve until I strike another lead. — Well, this is the merry month of 
May — hot enough to roast eggs — men. The hens in this country 
don't lay — 'cause there isn't any. Eggs are brought by sea from Aca- 
pulco at six dollars per dozen. I wish some Yankee would establish a 
manufactory here, so as to reduce the price a little. But speaking of 
May, it reminds me of where I was a year ago, sailing by point of 

1 Free Trader, July 6, 1850. Oleepa was an Indian village on the Feather River one half 
mile south of Yateston. Across the Plains, 127-128. 

2 Harriett Delano (b. 1797), after whom he apparently named his daughter Harriet. In 
"Old Block at Home" he refers to his reunion with his "only sister," a grandmother and 
widow, at Aurora, but her married name does not appear. His parents had eleven chil- 
dren; but only four attained middle age, apparently- — Austin, Harriett, Mortimer Fred- 
erick, and Alonzo. Pen-Knife Sketches, 57-58; Joel A. Delano, Genealogy, 408. 

3 Probably Edwin B. Morgan (1806-1881), of Aurora, one of the original officers of 
Wells, Fargo and Company, with which Delano was later associated. 


compass on the plains between the two Nemahas, 4 and by this time 
thousands of our fellow citizens have commenced their long and 
weary route of suffering towards this land of distress, sickness, and 
death, for in few words, such will be the inevitable fate of many who 
will cross the plains. So many reminiscences of my trials present 
themselves so vividly to my imagination, that I can scarcely write 
at all, so ardently do I desire to be with them to tell them how to 
avoid the difficulties and suffering which we encountered, and much 
may be avoided if they knew how. In one of my communications to 
you, I spoke of the pocket map which you presented me on my leav- 
ing Ottawa, but from a word dropped in your letter, I conclude you 
never received it. — It was a copy of Fremont's, 5 most conveniently 
arranged in sections, so that by turning a leaf two or three days' 
travel lay before us. We found it of infinite use. The distances were 
accurately laid down, and the notes and remarks were perfectly 
correct. Many trains were benefited, and something of the kind 
would be very useful to emigrants. Ours was only on this route to 
sixty miles west of Fort Hall, but now a new and better route is 
found from Bear Springs which saves about an hundred miles' 
travel, leaving Fort Hall to the north. It seems as if a man may live 
years in a few months in this country, so many are the changes and 
the scenes which he goes through. Every transit from the mountains 
to the Valley, or from the Valley to the mountains, brings its adven- 
tures. If I could detail but a small portion of the experience of 
travelers to this country, it would form as interesting and exciting a 
book of the kind as ever was published. 

Colonel Taylor, of St. Louis, in coming out last season with a 
part of his company, left their train and started for California. They 
lost their horses, and in an attempt to make a cut-off, got lost in the 
Wind River Mountains in August, where the snow was ten feet 
deep. For many days they had no provisions, only what they killed 
and that was but little, and just as the last ray of hope was depart- 
ing, and they had concluded that death was inevitable, they re- 
gained the road and succeeded in getting through by walking fifteen 
hundred miles. 

My neighbor, T. E. Gray, 6 came through Central America on 
foot. On the Pacific he took a whaleboat and put to sea, was once 
washed overboard in a storm, but arrived safely in San Francisco in 
twenty-seven days. Among the unfortunate sufferers who were 

4 The Little Nemaha River and the North Fork of the Nemaha River, in present-day 
Nebraska. Cf. p. 23. 

5 John Charles Fremont, Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 
the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44 (Washington, 
1845). Maps face pp. 132, 246. This was the most popular overland guide. 

6 Of Florida. He was a passenger on the steamer Galveston, which sailed from New 
Orleans for Panama on February 2, 1849. Haskins, Argonauts of California, 481. 


caught in the November snows of the last emigration was a gentle- 
man who told me that, in a desperate attempt to reach the settle- 
ment, he took his knapsack and started to walk in about two hun- 
dred miles. In about three days his provisions were all gone but one 
day's ration of flour and a small piece of bacon. He overtook a 
family where there were three women and three or four little chil- 
dren who had not a mouthful to eat, and the men had gone out to 
seek aid. Their cattle had all died and they were left helpless. With 
a self-denial and generosity that few can fully appreciate but those 
who have seen such things, he gave all his provisions to the helpless 
and starving sufferers, and walked three days in snow knee-deep, 
without food himself, before he ate anything. The family were 
rescued by the Government relief train. 7 But such things are so 
common that they have ceased to be a subject of conversation. 

A rather droll meeting happened to me last fall among hundreds 
of others. During my last trip to Sacramento City just before the 
rains set in, I was driving my ox team in company with two other 
teams over a dry arid plain, without grass or water — night was ap- 
proaching, and no sign of a camping ground appeared, and tired 
and jaded, suffering alike with hunger and thirst, we were anxiously 
looking round for a resting place for the night. Directly an old man 
overtook us, driving a smart span of mules in a light wagon, and we 
inquired where we should find grass and water. "About four miles 
from this," he replied courteously. "I camped there on my way 
down, and it is the only place you will find. — It will be after dark 
before you reach it. I will drive on, kindle a fire, and you will see it 
when you get to it — it is about half a mile off the road, but you will 
see my fire." He drove on and we followed slowly. When we came 
in sight we found that he had been as good as his word, for there 
was a bright fire, and on driving up we found our friend cooking 
his supper. We soon joined him in this agreeable operation, and 
soon we were amused at his wit and originality. Though rough in 
his appearance and somewhat Calif ornian in his language, we soon 
saw he was a well-educated man and a gentleman. After spending 
the evening quite agreeably in story-telling and discussing various 
topics, we spread our blankets on the ground and turned in, without 
once inquiring where each other was from. While we were break- 
fasting next morning, the old gentleman happened to drop a remark 
about Indiana. "Are you from Indiana?" I interrogated. "Yes." 
"What part of it?" "O, from down on the Wabash where they have 
the ague so hard that it shakes the feathers off all the chickens." A 
sort of recollection flashed through my mind like lightning. — "Is 
your name Patrick?" "Yes" — said he, looking up. — "Dr. Sceptre 

7 U. S. military authorities in California sent troops eastward with supplies in the winters 
of 1849-1850. Bancroft, History of California, VI, 154. 


Patrick, from Terre Haute?" 8 continued I. "Yes, that is my name — 
who the d — 1 are you?" "You were once a student of my father — 
he was Dr. Frederick Delano." 9 "My God, is it possible? — and you 

— you must be A !" Our knives and our breakfast dropped 

from our hands instantly, and they were clutched in the warm 
grasp of "auld lang syne." I had not seen him for sixteen years — 
"and now, Patrick, situated as you were at home, with every com- 
fort about you, with your reputation and circumstances, what sent 
you on this wild chase to California?" He had been a member of 
the Legislature and a somewhat prominent man at home. "Why, I'll 
tell you — my health was very poor, and I thought the exercise, ex- 
citement, and change of air might be beneficial, and so it has, but I 
like to have died on the road." "How so?" "Why, I had the cholera, 
and came within an ace of slipping my wind. I was taken suddenly 
and most severely, and there was not a man near me who under- 
stood dealing out a dose of medicine, except our d d fool of a 

pepper doctor. I was vomiting, purging, and suffering all the pain of 
infernal regions, when I told them to give me a large dose of calo- 
mel, opium and camphor, and not to count the grains either. But 
the pepper doctor urged me to take a dose of No. 6 — . 'Go to the 
d — 1 with your No. 6; give me the calomel, and quick too, or I 
am a dead man.' But the fool kept talking about his No. 6 — No. 6 
all the while, till finally to satisfy him, and at the same time while I 
was writhing in agony, I told him to pour it down me. He immedi- 
ately turned out a double dose, and I took it. Then I thought I 
should die. The remedy was worse than the disease, and I thought 
my insides were all on fire, and I roared out for water, 'water, water, 
for God's sake, or I shall die.' But there was not a drop of water to 
be had and all were much alarmed, but I did not throw the medicine 
up. 'Well, give me something — I'm burning up — give me brandy, 
fire, or turpentine, anything.' The doctor jumped to the brandy jug 
and poured out half a glass full, and before I knew it I had swal- 
lowed nearly all of that, but it was only adding fuel to flame, for the 
poor frightened devil had made a mistake in the jug and poured out 
another quadruple dose of No. 6. Now I thought I was gone sure, 
but it stuck, and stopped my vomiting, and then he was willing to 
give me my medicine, and that stuck. In the course of an hour or so 
it operated, and the disease was checked, and I got well." Our time 
was spent, and we parted, like the "two dogs resolved to meet some 
other day." 10 

I am located for the present in the fine flourishing town of Oleepa, 
at the head of steamboat navigation on Feather River. Our fine and 

8 Dr. Sceptre (or Septer) Patrick (1784 or 1785-1859). Born in Indiana, he died in 
Sacramento. Sacramento Union, July 2, 1859. 

9 D. 1825. Joel A. Delano, Genealogy, 408. 

10 Burns, The Twa Dogs. 


populous town consists of a cloth store, over which I am the pre- 
siding genius (Genius of the Lamp, vamos, for I am here), one 
cloth hotel about opening, under the direction of Mr. Gray, afore- 
said from Florida, and two Indian ranchos composed of about four 
hundred Indians, most of whom, disdaining Parisian fashions, are 
dressed in nature's costume. 11 Were it not for the mosquitoes, this 
would be a very convenient dress for the climate, where modesty is 
of no account. There are about fifty naked wretches sitting on the 
ground in front of my building, in the sun, laughing, singing, and 
taking comfort, all playing the same tune and beating time with 
their hands on their bodies, for it is slap, slap, slap, as the torment- 
ing mosquitoes bore into their naked, copper-colored hides. It will 
be in June before the water will be low enough to do anything in the 
mines, and then I shall shoulder "de shubble and de hoe" and make 
tracks for the mountains. Since my sickness of last fall and winter, 
the climate seems to agree with me, and it may eventually prove 
best suited for my constitution. There has been another great fire in 
San Francisco. It is estimated that from five to ten million dollars' 
worth of property has been destroyed. 12 

The lower towns are improving rapidly in the arts of civilization. 
San Francisco, Sacramento, &c, &c, are graced with theatres, cele- 
brated singers and dancers, model artists, &c. — admittance two 
dollars, front seats reserved for the ladies. Fudge — let 'em come this 
way and they can see Indian dances, and naked men, women, and 
children by the quantity for nothing, with a large sprinkle of grizzly 
bears, black wolves, and coyotes, with deer, elk and antelopes, rats, 
mice, and ground squirrels thrown into the bargain. So far from its 
being a novelty we do not notice them. I have not seen many of the 
Ottawa boys lately. I saw Joseph Reddick 13 not long since. He has 
a first-rate claim on the Middle Fork of Feather River, and will do 
well. Mr. Fredenburg and B. K. Thorn are near Mr. Green, all do- 
ing a fair business. Armstrong 14 is at Long's Bar, on the river, with 
good prospects before him. Indeed, those who are now well and have 
secured claims cannot fail of meeting with fair success. Gold is 
found in large quantities in the Cascade Mountains, towards Ore- 
gon, and a strong current is setting that way, but it is a horrid coun- 
try of sharp, broken and rugged mountains. McNeil is with me, one 
of the best men in the world. Mr. Pope is doing well on the Yuba. 

11 Maidu Indians. Kroeber, Handbook of the Indians of California, 391-441. 

12 This was the second "great" San Francisco fire, on May 4, 1850. Soule et ah, Annals, 


13 Of Ottawa, a son of William Reddick. He was a soldier in the Mexican War and died 
in California in 1870. Ottawa: Old and New, 22. 

14 Probably one of the seven sons of Joseph Armstrong, of Ottawa: John S., born 1810; 
George W., 1812; William E., 1814; Joel W., 1816; Jeremiah R., 1818; Perry A., 1823, 
and Isaiah J., 1829. Ibid., 10. 


He is a good and honest man, deserving success. Smith and Brown 
have a bakery at Yuba City. — I have not heard one word from Dr. 
Hall 15 since last fall — he richly deserves the best fortune. — Mr. 
Rood has a grocery at Eliza, two miles below Marysville — says he 
is doing well. Young Loring 1G has a claim about five miles above 
my upper one in a rich district. Mr. Bacon 17 and Dan. Stadden are 
dead, and it is rumored that Captain Reed was drowned a few weeks 
ago in Feather River. 18 This is about the only news I am possessed 
of with regard to our boys — we have all got places and are ready to 
go to work as soon as the floods permit. 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 

15 Dr. Josiah Hall, of Ottawa. A physician and blacksmith, and a Patriarch of the Sons of 
Temperance, he died at Ottawa in 1876. Ibid., 29-30. 

!6 Thomas Loring, of Ottawa. He is reported as being on the Feather River in February, 
1850. Free Trader, April 13, 1850. 

17 James Bacon, of Ottawa, "died of congestive chills at Weaverville" early in 1850. 
Free Trader, April 13, 1850. 

18 This was unfounded. Cf. p. 42. 


Oleepa, May 12th, 1850. 1 

My present communication will be a chapter on the Indians. I 
hesitated whether I would expose one of Colonel Grant's mountain 
rambles, together with Captain King's adventure, 2 but I finally con- 
cluded to leave persons and adventures until my next. My oppor- 
tunity of seeing the dark-skinned aborigines has been somewhat ex- 
tended within a few months, and this may diversify the thousand 
and one California communications with which we are boring our 
Atlantic brethren. I am at present living in immediate proximity of 
two large Indian villages, where the night revels of these poor sav- 
ages, together with the howling of the coyote, are my evening lulla- 
by, while during the day I am waited on or stared at as a great 
"medicine man" by a gaping crowd of credulous Indians. God help 
my practice as a physician. Beyond putting a plaster (if I have it) 
on a sore toe, or offering a bottle of hartshorn to a fainting person, 
my practice does not extend, and the veriest pepper quack in the 
land might blush to own me as one of the faculty. I found the chief 
(Oleepa) sitting by his fire one night, holding his head with his 
hand, evidently suffering with pain. On examination, I found a 
slight swelling just back and a little below his ear. I saw at once it 

1 True Delta, July 17, 1850. 2 Cf. pp. 77-80. 


was simply a slight inflammation, which would produce suppura- 
tion unless it could be reduced. I had scarcely any medicines with 
me, but I knew that opodeldoc was good for horseflesh, and I 
thought it might do for Indians; so I rubbed a little on it, gave him 
a pill of opium, and sent him to bed. In two days the swelling was 
gone and the chief well, and my credit as "high as the skies" as a 
"medicine man;" and I have a full run of practice, which I extend 
free gratis for nothing. One poor devil came to me with a sore skin. 
Having no Peleg White or Jew David 3 by me, I washed it clean with 
Castile soap, put a thin piece of fat bacon on a rag and bound it on 
the happy Indian's leg, and told him he would be well in three 
sleeps. It would have got well anyhow. Bacon is good for the inside 
of a white man, so I though it might do outside on an Indian. But I 
will brag no more of my medical talents until I invent some patent 
medicine, and then I will send you any quantity of Indian certifi- 
cates to prove that a man will never need employ me but once, for 
I shall kill him the first time. I have had considerable curiosity in 
finding out their customs and for this purpose have been a good deal 
among them. Their houses resemble coal pits, being a framework 
within an excavation in the ground and the dirt thrown over it, a 
hole being left in the top for the smoke to go out, and another about 
two feet square at the bottom to serve as a door: this is by a passage 
four or five feet long, and it is close work to get in by crawling on 
your hands and knees. Once in, they are quite capacious, but dingy 
with smoke, and filthy. I have frequently crawled in and sat by their 
fires in the cool evenings, and I have always been well treated, and 
at any time when they have been eating, was always invited to a 
share. Their bread is made of acorns pounded fine and dried, and 
they make a cake of a kind of grass by boiling it first, then working 
it over with their hands into a pulpy substance, flattening it out and 
drying it over their fires. Both are very palatable, aside from their 
dirty mode of preparing it. Their mode of cooking the beautiful 
salmon caught here makes them delicious; it is simply by laying 
heated stones upon them until they are thoroughly cooked. I like 
them better than any other mode I ever tried. Men and women gen- 
erally wear their hair short, shaved quite close on the top of the 
head. I have been amused at their mode of cutting hair; sometimes 
they burn it off with a coal and sometimes turn it over a flat stick 
and saw it off with the edge of a clam shell. 

In intelligence, they are far behind the Indians east of the Rocky 
Mountains. Unless they have been employed by the whites so as to 
obtain clothes, they go naked, the men entirely so, and the women 
wear only a short apron of grass before them. 

3 "Jew David, or Hebrew Plaster, is the only reliable remedy for Rheumatism, Lame 
Backs or Sides, Spinal Disease, White Swelling, Hard Tumors, Corns, &c." Advertisement 
in the Boonville (Missouri) Observer, October 3, 1850. The functions of Peleg White 
were probably similar. 


They have some idea of a Superior Being or Spirit greater than 
themselves, but have few, if any, religious ceremonies. The moon is 
an object of veneration, and they occasionally give her a dance 
offering. They are fond of dancing and often indulge in it without 
any other visible object than that of pleasure. Their music is a 
monotonous cadence of guttural sounds to which they keep time 
with their feet. It is somewhat singular that different rancherias, 
though only four and five miles apart, speak different dialects, 
though there appears to be a common means or general language 
of communication among the different tribes. 

Each village has its separate chief whose government is of the 
most liberal, patriarchal kind. Different tribes have different cus- 
toms: in their burials, some burn their dead, some bury them ex- 
tended at full length, covering them with skins or sticks, then throw- 
ing in dirt; while others bend the body and legs together in a sitting 
posture, winding them up tightly with cords, and then place them 
into holes in the ground, putting in water, provisions, and little 
mementos of affection to serve them on their way to the land of 

An affecting anecdote was related me by an eyewitness of a burial 
among one of the mountain tribes. Mr. Johnson, late proprietor of 
the ranch which bears his name on Bear River, 4 brought up a boy 
and girl from childhood. They were educated as well as the circum- 
stances of the country would allow, and while the girl was instructed 
in the domestic arts, the boy was learned in the science of agricul- 
ture. Both were trusty, and Mr. Johnson was much attached to 
them. In the course of time they arrived to a marriageable age, and 
the boy wanted a wife. Mr. Johnson proposed that he should take 
the girl, which being perfectly agreeable to their inclination, they 
were married. In a year or two the boy was taken sick and died. 
Mr. J. desired to have a somewhat expensive funeral to testify his 
regard for his adopted children, but the poor girl begged him to let 
her bury her beloved husband beside the bones of her father in the 
hills. Of course he at once consented, and he with all his domestics 
and several friends escorted the body to the mountains, where they 
were met by the rude mountaineers with every demonstration of 
sorrow, who placed the body on a pile and set fire to it. They then 
began to dance around it with songs of lamentation, each casting 
into the flames some precious offering, while the widow stripped 
herself completely of her civilized garments, threw them into the 
fire, and Mr. Johnson's domestics each pulled off their new hats, 
which he had just paid eighteen dollars apiece for, and cast them on 

4 William Johnson, a native of Boston and mate of the ship Alciope, came to California 
in 1841. Four years later he purchased the Gutierrez rancho on the Bear River. About 
1852 "he either died or went to the Sandwich Islands." Bancroft, History of California, 
IV, 694. 


the burning pile of the deceased fellow and friend. When all was 
consumed, the Indians gathered up the ashes in their hands and 
scattered them to the winds. 

When the ceremony was concluded, Mr. Johnson told the girl 
that her mule was ready and they would return, but she refused to 
go: "My husband, my heart, is dead; I will stay in the mountains 
with him; I will watch his ashes on the hills and his spirit will be 
with me; I am an Indian now; I love you, my father, but I will go no 
more to the Valley; I will be an Indian till I die." It was in vain that 
she was promised clothes, a life of ease and comfort and the wants 
of savage life exhibited to her. She would not go. "Her heart was 
here now. His bones were with her father's. Hers should be with 
his." She assumed the usual grass apron worn by the squaws and 
remains with them now. 

Their marriage customs vary in different tribes. Some buy their 
wives of their parents. Some steal them from other tribes, while 
some have a kind of hide-and-go-seek game. The lover asks the 
parents for their daughter. They tell him if he can find her three 
times she is his. In the meantime she secretes herself and the young 
man begins the search. If he finds her twice in succession, she is his. 
If he fails the third time, some weeks of probation is required before 
he is allowed another trial. They are very affectionate and kind to 
each other, sharing gifts freely. I have often tested this. One day 
two Indians came to my tent and I gave one of them a small cracker. 
He immediately broke it and gave half to his companion. I em- 
ployed one for a day or two and at noon took him home to dinner, 
which I gave him on a plate by himself. In the meantime two other 
Indians came up and commenced eating with him as a matter of 
course, and the three dispatched the dinner of one, and all appeared 
to be perfectly satisfied with the arrangement. 

They seem to have no idea of chastity, but they are so abominably 
filthy that their appearance excites disgust rather than passion. Still 
some of the old settlers use the women as wives and become at- 
tached to them. 

Gambling is a universal propensity. They play a game with short 
sticks cut equal lengths, a kind of odd-and-even game, and they fre- 
quently stake all their valuables, which they win or lose with perfect 
apparent indifference. An Indian may be loaded with strings of 
beads suspended from his naked neck today, and tomorrow they 
may be the property of, and won by, another. Notwithstanding their 
affection for each other, they readily part with their children. In 
passing through one of the villages a day or two since, I noticed a 
fine plump little fellow tugging lustily at its mother's breast. I 
stopped and playfully patted the child upon its cheek. Instantly a 
tall, naked Indian who was basking in the sun on top of his mud 
castle, sprang up and offered me the child for a handkerchief which 


was tied around my shoulders. I laughed and told him the baby was 
too small; I could put it in my pockets; but when he could run about 
I would trade. They laughed in turn and told me he would then be 
worth more. 

They beg without scruple or shame. A few days since I was sit- 
ting among a crowd, when one of them asked me for my handker- 
chief. He wanted it to wear on his head. 

"O, no!" I told him. "I cannot spare it — I want it to wipe my nose 
with." "Ugh! you have a hat (pointing to mine) and I have none. 
You can blow your nose as I do," and suiting the action to the 
word, turned a triumphant look upon me, as much as to say, "I 
have learned you something, old fellow," and the whole crowd 
laughed merrily at my ignorance. What a barbarian I am. Well, my 
education must be my excuse. There are many other incidents to 
illustrate Indian character but it would make too long a letter, and 
I will close by a single anecdote illustrating their credulity, if my 
medical practice is not sufficient. Extract from my Journal: 

"January 30. — The second day after McNeil and I reached our 
cabin, 5 our Indian friends returned. It was a cold, rainy, gusty day, 
and they came naked into our cabin, the rain dripping from their 
hair, while they drew near the fire shivering with cold. We had no 
particular objection to their visit, only on account of their propen- 
sity for stealing, which with them is no crime, and as they might 
come when we were absent or busily at work on our race, and take 
what they chose from the cabin, we thought it was best to get rid of 
them quietly, and I tried their credulity for the occasion. I told them 
that I was a conjurer, that I came from the rising sun and had con- 
trol over the elements. Occasionally a gust of wind and rain came 
that was terrific, and the smoke drove down the chimney enough 
to suffocate us. I took advantage of the approach of these guests to 
beckon up the chimney, which was often followed by a ready re- 
sponse from the god of the storm, and a severe gust followed. Then 
I examined their heads phrenologically (I understand that science 
about as well as medicine) . This excited them, and they frequently 
enquired if it was wano (good)? "Yes," I replied, "it was good," 
though they were evidently uneasy. At length after a few manipula- 
tions of animal magnetism, and occasional gyrations towards the 
chimney as each gust approached, I sat down with a grave face and 
began to sketch their likenesses on a smooth board. They watched 
me closely till they began to see something of a resemblance to 
themselves, now and then looking at each other in apparent alarm, 
when a strong gust coming which instantly filled the room with 
smoke, Mac suddenly jumped up and rushed to the door, and open- 
ing it, looked out to see if any goblins answered my summons. No 
sooner was the door opened, than our Indian friends started to their 

5 At Ottawa Bar. 


feet and bolted outright, preferring to "bide the pelting of the piti- 
less storm" rather than stay longer in the den of a monster who 
called the storm from the clouds and took their spirits from them- 
selves and made them fast to the board. We have not seen them 

I had the good fortune to see a copy of the California edition of 
the True Delta, which Dr. Angle, of the Angle and Company's Ex- 
press, gave me. 7 1 noticed a copy from a Springfield, Illinois, paper 
of a horrid circumstance said to have occurred in the train of Cap- 
tain Green, of Fox River, Illinois, of his son 8 who killed a squaw 
and who was afterwards given up and flayed alive by the Indians in 
presence of his father and the company. It is a sheer fabrication 
from beginning to end. I came nearly all the way in that train and 
have seen them since my arrival here. In the first place, young Green 
neither killed a squaw nor had any difficulty with the Indians. In the 
next place, if he had, that company, nor no other which crossed the 
plains last season, would have given a man up to the tender mercies 
of the Indians; they would all have fought till they died. And in the 
last place, any man who knows old Mr. Green knows that he has 
grit enough to stand as long as a man can stand against any body of 
Indians alive. He is an old Indian-fighter, and you may be assured 
no son or friends of his would be skinned before his eyes while he 
could pull a trigger or wield a knife. They are now piling up the 
golden rocks in the mountains. Water still too high to work in the 
mines and probably will be till June. 

Truly yours, 


6 Shakespeare, King Lear, III, iv, 29. 

7 Dr. M. B. Angle (c. 1820-1865), of Illinois. He came overland with Delano and lent 
him two hundred dollars. He was for several years president of the Pacific Medical Col- 
lege (the first medical school in California), founded in San Francisco by the College of 
the Pacific about 1858. He died at Redding. Across the Plains, 27, 52, 109; San Francisco 
Aha California, October 1, 1865; Morse, First History of Sacramento, 14. 

8 George Green. Cf. p. 112. 


Yateston, June 14, 1850. 1 

Did you ever hear of Jim Beckwith? 2 There is a class of men in 
California whose adventures, if written out, would equal, if not sur- 
pass the works of fiction. For many years living in the mountains, 
enduring all the privations and suffering incident to such a life, 
from choice, forsaking the comforts of a civilized land to gain a 
scanty and precarious living among savages — these men have been 
awakened to a desire of procuring wealth by the universal attrac- 
tion of California, and have emerged from their bleak and desolate 
hills among the Rocky Mountains, to form an atom of the thousands 
crowding here for gold; and of this bold, determined and fearless 
class is Jim Beckwith. He is a free mulatto from Missouri, origi- 
nally. By a combination of circumstances he found himself a moun- 
taineer and the chief of the Crow Nation, among the Black Hills, 
high up in the vicinity of the North Platte. 

According to the custom of Indians who are friendly with each 
other, Jim had a wife among the Blackfeet as well as among the 
Crows. Being out once upon some wild excursion, he met a party of 
Blackfeet going to war with some neighboring tribe; and at their 
solicitation, he joined them. They were victorious and returned with 
a number of scalps; among them was that of a mountaineer whom 
some of the Indians had killed. Jim took this opportunity to go and 
see his wife among the Blackfeet, and a great festival was held in 
their large town to celebrate their victory. In the lodge which Jim's 
wife occupied were three or four French traders, with their goods, 
whose curiosity led them to the door of the lodge to witness the 
antics of the Indians, while Jim sat moodily by a small fire inside, 
leaning his head in his hands and holding no communion with the 
noisy and reckless throng without. Raising his eyes he observed the 
curiosity of the Frenchmen who were gazing at the crowd, and he 
addressed them, "Why do you stand looking upon that scene?" 

"Because we want to see them dance," they replied. 

"Do you not know that the scalp of a white man is among them 
and can you look coolly on and see them rejoice over his death? I 

1 True Delta, June 26, 1850. Yateston was named for Captain John Yates, an Englishman 
by birth who came to California from Mazatlan in 1842 and was employed by Sutter as 
master of his launch. Yates was "second to have been owner of land in the Chico region," 
1846-1847. In 1851 he went to the Sandwich Islands, where he was living in 1872. Ban- 
croft, History of California, V, 782; Across the Plains, 120, 127-128. 

2 James P. Beckwourth (1798-c. 1867), "hunter, squaw-man, raconteur." Born in Virginia 
of a mulatto mother and a white father, he went with William H. Ashley and Andrew 
Henry on their famous exploring expedition of 1823 and with Ashley to the Rocky Moun- 
tains in the winter of 1824-1825. He married a succession of Indian maidens. In 1844 he 
settled in California, where he discovered the low-altitude pass over the Sierra which 
bears his name. Dictionary of American Biography. 


never did," and he added vehemently, "I never will. If you know 
what is best for you, come and sit down with me." 

They came in, for they knew he was not to be trifled with, but 
inquired, "If you dislike it, why do you let your squaw dance with 

"Is my squaw there?" "Yes, and she is the best dancer among 
them." Without making a reply he arose and strode into the crowd, 
and seizing his wife, forcibly dragged her into the tent. "Now do 
your duty — go and bring me some water." The reply of the irritated 
squaw was characteristic of a freeborn woman. "I am no slave — if 
you have one, send her." Without reply, Jim seized his hatchet and 
clove her skull, and she fell a lifeless corpse before him. Turning to 
the whites, with the utmost coolness he observed, "Now you must 
fight or die; you'll soon hear," and he took down his rifle, knife, 
pistols and tomahawk, and calmly set down by the fire. 

In the meantime, two or three women who witnessed the occur- 
rence ran out screaming and soon explained the state of affairs 
within. In a moment the yelling orgies without ceased — there was 
an appalling stillness which contrasted strangely with the horrid din 
that had shaken the ground. "Aha!" ejaculated Jim, "do you hear 
that?" Directly the thunder of the terrific warwhoop was sounded. 
The stoutest heart might have quailed and the faces of the French- 
men grew pale as they reflected that they were surrounded by hun- 
dreds of desperate and revengeful Indians, who formed a circle 
around the lodge. Escape was impossible, and death seemed inevi- 
table. The yell was repeated. "I told you so," said Jim recklessly. 
"It is for life now, men, and little chance for that." "Why did you 
kill her, Jim?" the white men asked with a shudder. "I told her," he 
replied, "that I never rejoiced at the death of a white man — I never 
will, and no squaw of mine shall do so. I forbade her to do it, and 
she disobeyed me." 

At the very moment in which they expected the rush upon them 
to be made, the door was opened, and the father of the murdered 
squaw entered alone, and silently gazing upon her remains for a few 
moments, quietly sat down by her murderer. "My son, why did you 
do this — why did you kill my daughter?" "She disobeyed me," re- 
plied Jim fearlessly. "She forgot her duty." A pause ensued. At 
length silence was broken by the old man. "My son, you did right. 
I want all my foolish children dead. She had no ears — she should 
have obeyed you. I have another girl — she has ears and will hear 
you. You shall have her for a wife, and she will obey you. Take her 
and use her well." 

Savage as the act was, Jim had only exercised an Indian preroga- 
tive, and he actually married another daughter of the old man. Not- 
withstanding the matter was thus compromised, Jim well knew that 
as he belonged to another tribe, her friends would revenge her death 


at some convenient opportunity, and after remaining in the lodge a 
few days he determined to try to reach his own tribe. The old man 
selected a guard who were pledged to protect him to a certain point 
on the way and then give him the start of them about six miles be- 
fore they pursued him, if they were determined to kill him. They 
obeyed the instructions, and Jim started off. As soon as they reached 
the point of his final departure, they stopped, and as soon as he was 
out of sight, he ran with all his might, for he knew too well what 
his fate would be if they overtook him. By almost superhuman ex- 
ertions, he succeeded in outrunning them and in about three days 
reached the Crows in safety. 

He is now in California, and I am told is waiting for the snows to 
melt on the mountains, when he starts as a bearer of dispatches to 
some of the distant inland posts. His has been a life of impetuous 
daring, and this is only one of the many stories which are related of 

The waters are slowly subsiding, and people are leaving the 
Valley in crowds for the mines. I go up to work on my claim next 
week. A. D. 


Dawlytown, June 25, 1850. 1 

The rainy season had commenced, and if non gustibus disputan- 
dum was ever exemplified, it was in the month of November, 1 849, 
in California. It was during one of these not gentle floods that two 
friends of mine were climbing over the steep mountains through 
which the South Fork of Feather River forces its way in its rapid 
course to the parent stream, and although not like Don Quixote, 
seeking adventures, adventures came to them which might have 
honored the Flower of Chivalry himself. They had started on a 
prospecting tour for gold, and in a region then imperfectly known 
where, even in good weather, the passage of the hills and ravines 
was laborious, but now so slippery and the stream so swollen by the 
floods, it was almost impossible to get along. Supplies, too, on the 
route were entirely out of the question, and in addition to a pan, 
pick and shovel, they were compelled to bear upon their shoulders a 
week's rations, cooking utensils, firearms and ammunition for pro- 
tection against the savages, and their blankets, which soon being 
saturated with water, doubled their weight. They had got only about 
a couple of miles from Bidwell Bar, the last station on the river, 
when the rain increased so much that they were fain to encamp in a 
deep gorge, hoping that the morning sun would beam more auspic- 
iously upon them — . 

1 True Delta, August 11, 1850. 1-77-1 

"By heaven, Captain Freeland, this is too bad; we can't get along 
at this rate; let us lay over until tomorrow." "I believe you are right, 
Colonel Grant," replied Freeland, "this is worse than the hills of 
Yucatan, for although they were steep and slippery enough, it did 
not rain like this when we followed the Indians among them." 
"Well, old soldier," responded Grant, "where shall we encamp? The 
chance for that, even, is somewhat precarious." "There is a good 
spot on the hillside under that tree," said Freeland. "What! across 
that mad stream? How can we cross?" "O, we can do it," said Free- 
land, and to show that it could be done, he attempted to jump from 
the root of a tree upon a rock near the opposite bank, and he did 
land nearly waist deep at the foot of the rock in the creek. "Ha! ha! 
ha!" roared Grant, "you are not a Rhodian Colossus, Freeland. 
How do you find the diggings?" "Not dry, anyhow," responded 
Freeland, crawling out on his hands and knees; "now try it your- 
self, my fine fellow." 

But Grant had a flea in his ear and concluded to prospect a little 
higher up for dry diggings, at least in crossing. By good luck he 
found a pole that had fallen across the stream, and although a rather 
precarious crossing, he ascertained that it would bear his weight, 
and he commenced the transit. About midway, his feet slipped, and 
imitating an equestrian, he found himself sitting astride his wooden 
horse with his legs dangling in the water over his boot tops. 

"Ha! ha! ha!" echoed Freeland, maliciously, "what are you doing 
there, Grant?" "Bobbing for whales," grinned Grant, "and I've 
caught a gudgeon. I never found out the true value of long boots 
before; when filled with water, they are equal to a balance pole in 
riding a wooden horse across a crazy brook." But at length they 
succeeded in getting safe over and, with much difficulty, kindled a 
fire by which, although they could not dry themselves, they could 
cook their salt pork and get warm. Night now came upon them, and 
spreading their blankets on the wet ground, they laid down to — be 
rained on — sleep being quite another affair. In a short time Grant 
nudged his companion. 

"Freeland, are you asleep?" "Asleep! what the d — 1 do you 
mean by that, Grant?" "O, nothing, only to enquire into the nature 
of your dreams — as for myself, I've had a vision. I thought as we lay 
here, under the broad canopy of heaven, that it rained." — "Rained," 
interrupted Freeland; "why, man, you are in a trance." "Trance or 
not, I am laying in water at least six inches deep, and it's my im- 
pression that we had better move our boots to a little higher 
ground." "Nonsense, Grant, your boots are so water-soaked that 
you can't move 'em. Lay still; your body will warm the water, and 
if we move we shall catch cold." 

And they did lay still till daylight, and then they arose as wet as 
if they had been laying in the creek. From stress of weather they 


were compelled to stay in these very comfortable quarters five days, 
and by that time they only had two days' rations left. 

Anyone who knows California men knows that they keep digging 
as long as there is a shot left in the locker, and when the storm some- 
what abated they again started. Two days of intense labor brought 
them to Stony Point, and to the end of their provisions, except a 
small piece of salt fat pork. A man had just got in before them with 
fifty pounds of flour, and they thought, of course, there was no 
danger of starving; but on application to the wealthy possessor of so 
much flour, they learned that only ten pounds belonged to him, and 
the rest was promised to other individuals — so that, although his 
disposition was good enough, he was morally unable to let them 
have a mouthful. "Urn! urn!" groaned Grant, with his hand on his 
stomach, which was making imperious demands for tribute, "here's 
a go, Freeland. What shift can you make in this dilemma? Some- 
how I am convinced this is a dilemma, for I feel the horns grating 
under my sternum." "Humph!" said Freeland, "I have it — no danger 
of starving yet; there's a bit of pork left." "Yes." "Well, did you ever 
eat pork soup?" "No, how does it go?" "O, capital. Oysters should 
not be mentioned the same day," and Freeland installed himself as 
cook. Filling their camp kettle with water, the pork was put in, and 
after boiling a couple of hours, the cook called all hands from labor 
(of waiting) to refreshment. Freeland helped himself bountifully 
and worked away like a hero upon it. Grant, on viewing the prem- 
ises, saw nothing but a little stingy grease on top of the water, and 
one taste was enough. "What's this, Freeland?" "Why, pork soup, 
to be sure, and capital too. Never ate better." Slup! slup! and he 
guzzled it down as if it was palatable." "Why, Grant, you don't eat; 
ain't you fond of it?" "Fond of it? — fond of the d — 1; I would as 
soon eat tartar emetic soup. Augh! augh! I believe in my soul I shall 
vomit, hungry as I am." And although it had been fast day with 
them, he preferred living on Faith and Hope until he could either 
reach the settlements or, at least, until the rebellion of his stomach 
was subdued. Another night of suffering, and another day and a 
half of hard walking, brought them back to Mr. Dawly's, where the 
inner man was supplied with what their physical condition required. 
This is no fancy sketch, and I hope you will get the story from 
Colonel Grant's own mouth; for but a meagre account can be given 
on paper of what severe trials men often encounter when prospect- 
ing in the mountains. It was on Colonel Grant's return from this 
memorable excursion that I first made his acquaintance, which, I 
trust, may continue forever. 

During the emigration last year, a family from Indiana had all 
their cattle stolen by the Indians in the night, on the Humboldt or 
Mary's River, a short time after I passed that point. There they 
were, without the means of locomotion, a family composed of sev- 


eral small children besides the parents, in the wilderness, many 
hundred miles from the settlements, and their condition was indeed 
deplorable. Their case excited the compassion of some of the trains, 
and a company of twenty-five men, under the command of Captain 
King, volunteered to go in pursuit and recover the cattle, if possible. 
After proceeding several miles over the mountains, the company by 
some means got divided in passing up a gorge, and Captain King 
found himself with three others, named Elliott, 2 Moore 3 and King, 
traveling by themselves. Turning a sharp point of rocks, they sud- 
denly came upon four Indians who, instead of fleeing, resolutely 
attacked the captain and his little party. Each man selected his an- 
tagonist, and for a while victory was doubtful. Each American drew 
up his rifle, but the cap on Captain King's piece exploded without 
discharging it. The Indians discharged their stone-pointed arrows, 
with great rapidity, and Moore was wounded in his head. Captain 
King jumped aside as his Indian drew his bow, and the arrow missed 
him. He immediately closed with him, seizing the bow with one 
hand and grasping the Indian's hand with the other, while the sav- 
age caught hold of the Captain's gun. Both were powerful men and 
struggled until they were out of breath to obtain possession of each 
other's weapon and release themselves. Getting breath a little, the 
Captain kicked the gun out of the Indian's hand and sprang to 
seize it. His knife and pistol had slipped behind him in the belt, so 
that he could not use them at the moment, and while he was putting 
his hand into his vest pocket to get a cap, the Indian let fly an arrow 
which wounded him in the wrist. By this time he had placed the cap 
upon the lock, and before the Indian could discharge another ar- 
row, the deadly messenger of death had done its duty. Elliott had 
also killed his man, but Moore was still fighting. As each arrow was 
discharged he bent his head and received each one on his skull. He 
still continued fighting, although he thought himself mortally 
wounded, calling on the others for aid. His shot had taken effect on 
the Indian, who still continued to fight with the utmost desperation, 
until Elliott had dispatched his adversary and ran up to assist 
Moore. Elliott fired his pistol, when the Indian, finding the odds 
against him, now for the first time began to think of retreating, al- 
though desperately wounded. As he turned to run, Elliott drew his 
knife and stabbed him, but he still made off, when the former made 
a pass and cut his neck badly. Under the impression, probably, that 
now he could not escape, he turned upon Elliott with his knife, but 
a second thrust cut open his belly, his bowels protruded, and he sank 
upon the ground, resting upon one arm and striking wildly with his 
knife. Moore, recovering a little, now ran up, and putting his pistol 

2 Perhaps the Captain Elliott, from Missouri, mentioned as having been in a fight with 
Indians. Free Trader, February 9, 1850. 

3 Possibly William Moore, from Mishawaka, Indiana. Cf. p. 83. 


to the Indian's head, blew out his brains and ended this terrible en- 
counter by the death of his foe, and the white men stood victorious 
upon this desperate battlefield. Moore eventually recovered, but the 
cattle were lost entirely, and the unfortunate emigrant was assisted 
to reach the Valley of the Sacramento by the other trains. 



Stringtown, July 22, 1850. 1 

Editors Free Trader — During the last days of June I had my af- 
fairs in the Valley arranged and came here to superintend the work- 
ing of this claim. 

After nearly completing our dam, the water, which is still high, 
percolated through the race and the gravel and the unfinished dam 
so much that our claim was not dry enough to work. We thought, 
however, that by throwing out a wing at the head of our claim we 
could drain a bar sufficiently dry to sink a hole to the bedrock. 
Accordingly we commenced operations by falling a tall pine that 
stood on the brink convenient for the purpose of making an abut- 
ment. Our company was composed of a Frenchman, the first dis- 
coverer of gold in Australia, 2 an Englishman from Sydney, New 
Holland, one New Yorker, three stout Yankees from Maine, and 
three men from Maryland. The most of us were in the river clearing 
the bed from brush and dirt. When the tree was ready to fall, the 
word was given, and all got out in time but myself. I happened to be 
in the middle of the stream and in the deepest part, and owing to the 
strong current was unable to get out. I made a few steps upward, 
watching the tree, when I became satisfied it was coming on to me. 
I stepped back, when it swayed around, and it was now clear that I 
was directly in its course. 

My wife and helpless children came into my mind; still I felt 
perfectly collected, with the thought that if I was killed my com- 
panions could tell what had become of me, which was more than 
many a poor fellow who has perished in the weary search for gold 
could have done for him, and strange as it may seem a ray of com- 
fort shot through my heart. But there is no man who is threatened 
with such a death who will not instinctively make an exertion to 
save his life, however worthless it may be to him. Of course these 
thoughts passed through my mind in much less time than it takes to 
tell it. I made one desperate effort more to avoid the falling tree, and 
could only take two steps against the strong current, and the stones 

1 Free Trader, September 14, 1850. 

2 This seems a remarkable anachronism, since gold was not discovered in Australia until 
February, 1851. "Australia," Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1948. 


being covered with slime and very slippery, I fell at full length under 
water as the tree came crashing thundering down, and I found my- 
self with only a slight bruise amid the branches and spreading limbs, 
within two or three feet of the trunk, verifying the old proverb that 
"he who is born to be hung will never be drowned." Raising myself 
like a turtle from the water, I saw the men standing aghast on the 
bank, sure that I was killed. "Well, boys," I shouted, shaking off the 
water, "she lays exactly right — could not have done better if we had 

"My God! are you hurt?" was the eager inquiry. "No — no, not in 
the least. Let us trim it, cut it off, and crack in our dam in less than 
no time." I don't know why it was, but at that moment my escape 
was not in my mind, but the men were so much agitated that they 
could scarcely speak. 

"By Gar!" gasped the honest Frenchman. — "Ough! Monsieur — " 
and placing his hand on his heart, "you just feel him here — thump, 
thump, thump. I see the tree — he fell. I see you no get out — I see 
him kill you sure. I not could speak — my tongue stood still in my 
mouth wide open," and all gave me hearty congratulations. — One 
of our strongest men from Maine, a powerful man named Dunning, 3 
took the axe to trim the limbs from the tree, and getting upon the 
trunk stepped off again. "I can't do it," he said; "my knees are so 
weak that I cannot stand — I never was so frightened in my life," 
and it was not until they became calm that I began fully to appre- 
ciate my almost miraculous escape, and then I confess that for a 
little while my knees were weak too. 

Our wing dam being finished, we endeavored to sink a hole, but 
the water came in so fast that we were compelled to abandon it for a 
few days, till the water subsided still more and until we could con- 
trive to drain off more water. Taking advantage of a couple of days 
of leisure, I went over to the Middle Fork, in company with Dun- 
ning and Periam, 4 and Norton from Mishawaka. 5 — The distance 
was only ten miles by a good mule path to the top of the ridge. From 
there we had a splendid view. The mountains are broken and piled 
up in a manner which defies description. — Bare ledges of rocks 
rear their dark heads in confused and broken masses, while at one 
point we observed a waterfall at the distance of five or six miles 
which appeared like a thread hanging about midway in a gorge 
where the mountains were three thousand feet high. The perpen- 
dicular fall is said to be from eight hundred to a thousand feet. Our 

3 Zophar Dunning (1825-1899). A native of Charleston, Maine, he arrived in California 
in 1850 by ship via Australia. After his mining days he resided in Butte and Nevada 
counties, San Francisco, and Marysville, where he died. Iola Dunning, Ms. in Pioneer 
File, California State Library. 

4 From Chicago. Cf. p. 85. 

5 William Norton, "now deceased." David R. Leeper, Argonauts of 'Forty-Nine (South 
Bend, Indiana, 1894), xv. 


view was bounded on the east by a long high granite mountain, 
perfectly bald without a shrub of vegetation, which is said to extend 
many miles parallel with the Valley. — Nothing could be more 
picturesque or romantic. We thought of attempting to reach the 
falls and commenced a descent to the river, where we held several 
claims. It was quite perpendicular, but so steep that if we had lost 
a foothold we should have slid and tumbled more than a thousand 
feet over the decayed granite, but by taking an angling course we 
reached the bottom in safety. 

Refreshing ourselves from our knapsacks, we attempted to reach 
the fall by clambering over the rocks along the run. An hour's hard 
labor only brought us half a mile, and we were finally compelled to 
give it up this time. 

And then came the task of climbing the hill. It took us fully two 
hours and a half, and by nightfall we had reached a little rill, when, 
exhausted, we sank upon the ground and slept soundly till morning. 
We reached home completely used up, a little before noon of the 
second day. 

It is said that misery makes strange bedfellows — so does Cali- 
fornia. I had one the other night. Now don't blush — but it is a fact — 
I was fairly caught. I slept in the open air on the ground. Towards 
morning I was awakened by something pricking my side. Supposing 
it to be an ant or bug of some kind, half -asleep, I brushed it nastily 
away and turned over and went to sleep again. A little after day- 
light, I awoke, and throwing off the clothes, there lay snugly nestled 
by my side a large scorpion. Whether it was him that stung me or 
something else, I cannot tell, but I felt no inconvenience from it, 
and they are very poisonous. I soon made beef of him and have 
thoroughly shook and examined my blankets ever since on retiring 
to bed. Speaking of being poisoned reminds me that I have seen 
many men poisoned badly by a species of oak which grows in the 
mountains. 6 Its effects are much worse than the poison ivy at home. 
I have seen men almost blind, covered with sores from head to foot, 
and completely laid up by simply rubbing against it; yet I have 
handled it with impunity. It produces no effect on me whatever. — 
It is a dwarf oak shrub with small leaves, though it sometimes 
reaches as high as a man's hands. — It is very plenty in the moun- 
tains, and those that it affects have to be very watchful. 

The emigration begins to arrive, and so far as I hear are dis- 
appointed and sick of California. — We do not pity them, for they 
have been advised better. Among my acquaintances are W. B. Hol- 
lister and William Moore and family from Mishawaka. The early 
emigrants will find but few difficulties; the last must suffer on the 

I have seen nor heard anything of any of the Ottawa Company 

6 Poison oak. 


since I last wrote. In my next I shall probably be able to say some- 
thing of the good and ill success of the mines. At present au revoir. 

A. Delano. 


Stringtown, Feather River, July 29, 1850. 1 

Are you fond of romantic views? Is there a touch of the sublime 
in your nature? Can you enjoy a rural scene? Sit down, then, on 
that old keg — there, pull up the hoops a little, or the staves will fly, 
and you'll squat. Periam, pass that pipe to the hombre; drive off 
the lizards; the gentleman ain't used to 'em yet; they are harmless 
as young toads and just as good to catch flies. Now cast your eyes 
around my cabin; that deep old-fashioned fireplace I helped to build 
myself; I found it rather harder work than lolling over the counter, 
trying to sell a yard or two of lace edging, with an abundance of 
small talk, to a pretty young lady. By the way, I would give an 
ounce just to look at a — . How I am digressing. That bake kettle I 
paid ten dollars for and lugged it over hill and dale for miles, think- 
ing more of the good bread I could now have, rather than the fatigue. 
I used to bake in that old frying pan that hangs on a nail over the 
fireplace, but that we use now only for frying meat and fritters in. 
The bake kettle is an industrious and worthy article, and good- 
natured withal, for it bakes all the bread for four large messes or 
companies. That crowbar, leaning so jauntily against the end of a 
log, is my poker, as we don't need it in the river digging just now; 
and on those shelves, made of staves split out of pine logs, you see 
a pile of sundries, tin pails, coffee pot, tin pans and plates, knives 
and broken forks, empty bottles, pickle jars, cans containing pre- 
pared meats, potatoes, &c, from New York (we live high now), a 
hairbrush, comb, grease dish, &c. There hangs our yeast pail; al- 
ways renew it with flour when you bake, and you'll have good bread 
— the flour barrel stands in the corner quite handy. Now look at the 
other side: that pine box standing on two long pegs in the fourth 
log contains my library. Shakespeare and the Vicar of Wakefield 
are looking down on us good-humoredly, and well they may; for 
when we were throwing away provisions, clothes, and almost every- 
thing else last year on the plains to lighten our loads so that we could 
get through, I saved these two worthies from destruction, and they 
have repaid me over and over during the weary rains of winter and 
— no matter. There they are, with a work on natural philosophy 
which my father gave me when I was a boy, together with one on 

1 True Delta, September 10, 1850. 


geology, and just below you see a file of the True Delta, which I re- 
ceive through the kindness of your agent, and this constitutes my 
reading privileges. Without the True Delta, I should be lost in utter 
ignorance of what transpired in America, for it is about the only 
paper which comes to hand. Those boots hanging up there belong 
to one of the boys and hang against the wall as a decoration, we 
having no pictures. In the window you see a vial containing calomel 
and one of castor oil. I'm about half sick today, and for fear I shall 
not make it quite out, I am about to take a dose before I close this 
letter, for I am threatened with fever, even in this very healthy cli- 
mate (vide Bryant and others). In the rear are our bunks, made 
with an axe and an inch auger — the mattresses are of rough plank, 
split out of pine trees. Our floor was built when the country was 
made, and we have not ventured to disturb this part of creation, so 
that we tread on our mother earth, in or out of the cabin. Among 
various decorations, equal to the boots on the wall, there hangs an 
old violin that has a reminiscence attached to it which is of more 
importance than even its own soft tones. It belonged to an elderly 
man named Turner, from Henry County, Illinois. 2 He had made a 
bargain with a man to bring him to California, but on reaching Fort 
Laramie, the man sold his wagon and packed through, leaving 
Turner to shift for himself. Without a friend to aid him, with no 
money or provisions, without the means of going backward or for- 
ward, poor Turner was like a shipwrecked mariner upon a desolate 
coast, for while many ships were sailing by, it seemed impossible to 
make them notice his signals of distress. Happily for him, Messrs. 
Billinghurst, Brown and Periam, of Chicago, came along, and pity- 
ing his forlorn condition, they took him aboard their wagon, al- 
though their own supplies were none too abundant. On the road 
across the plains, Turner was taken with scurvy, and instead of 
being a help to them on their arrival in the mines, he was only a 
continued tax upon their generosity and good feeling when even the 
necessaries of life were procured with difficulty, and notwithstand- 
ing disease had made him irritable, they did not relax their assiduity 
for his comfort, and it was "without the hope of fee or reward." He 
moved with them from Long's Bar to this place in November, and 
if, at times, he was able to draw the bow to "auld lang syne" and 
"sweet, sweet home" with plaintive melody, with the tears trickling 
down his careworn cheek, it was destined that "wife nor children 
more should he behold, nor friends nor sacred home." He gradually 
grew worse, and died the last of January. He lies upon the hillside 
above our cabin, and his violin and a half-written letter is all the 
mementos left of poor Turner. May God help his widowed wife and 
fatherless children. 

2 Perhaps S. K. Turner, listed as from Illinois and at St. Joseph. St. Louis Missouri Re- 
publican, Aprl 23, 1849. 


Our table, of which I have said nothing, stands under a bush 
porch in front of the cabin, where we perform the daily ceremony 
of mastication with good appetites, but with no one to kiss the cook. 
Unfortunately I am the cook, and as for being kissed, even if there 
were any female women here my nose is too, too long. O, get out. 
Should I apologize for my nonsense? Well, I will. All which is writ- 
ten above on this page and half of the other was done under the 
operation of two doses of calomel and a dose of oil, and I write just 
to keep the thought of the infernal stuff out of my mind. 

The miners on this fork of Feather River have nearly completed 
their dams, but generally the water is yet too high and comes into 
excavations so fast that it is impossible to get low enough to test the 
bed of the stream. In a few instances it has been done. Three or four 
claims are paying well; two have been abandoned after thousands of 
dollars being expended on their dams and races, with only a partial 
trial. The dam and race of the claim which I am superintending cost 
over thirteen thousand dollars in labor, and we have yet to dig the 
first cent. We may find a pile, or we may not get a penny, but we 
shall not give it up as easily as some have done. An unlooked-for 
difficulty has occurred on the river which has tested the justice and 
equity of the miners. In making claims the levels on various rapids 
were not taken, and the consequence is that many claims are over- 
flowed by lower dams. 

Last Saturday I was summoned as a juror on such a case before 
the miners' tribunal, composed of the Vice-President of the district, 
the Secretary and three jurors. Although it was no legal tribunal, 
and binding only by consent of the parties and by public opinion, 
the case was opened with as much gravity, the jury and witnesses 
sworn in as solemn a manner, and as much decorum prevailed as in 
any court of justice in the world. Double the amount of costs, 
amounting to $102 — that is, eight dollars per day per man, witness, 
court, and jurymen, was deposited by the parties, the successful 
litigant to receive his back at the close of the trial. It was the Bed- 
ford Company vs. Renfro and Company. The Miners' Code gave 
the oldest claimant the right of building their dam, and the defend- 
ants proved that they had made and occupied their claim about two 
weeks before the plaintiffs. Of course the jury rendered a verdict in 
favor of the defendants, which was acquiesced in by the other party, 
and as much respect paid to the decision of the law as to any legal 
enactment of Congress. If you knew the class of men who compose 
the bulk of our mining population, you would not be surprised at 
this, for obedience to law and love of order, equity and justice has 
been taught them from infancy. I should be glad to send you a copy 
of the Miners' Code if I could get time to copy it. The lawmakers at 
home might gather some idea of what we require if they will make 
laws for our guidance. It is a little queer that while we are not yet 


admitted as a State into the Union, we are going as quietly on as if 
that even had taken place. 3 

Elections have been held, State, county and town officers elected. 
Courts are duly organized, and proceeding to try cases and writs 
begin with "State of California," &c. &c; and while you are quarrel- 
ing among yourselves at home about admitting us free and un- 
trammeled into the Union, we are at work minding our own busi- 
ness and, apparently, unconcerned about what course you take with 
regard to us. If we are not recognized as a State what becomes of all 
the decisions in our courts of justice, of the acts of the sheriffs, of 
collectors of revenue, &c. &c? all, all, illegal — all of no account? 
Fudge! the very people who voted for a State constitution and legis- 
lature will sustain their acts, unless an armed force prevents them, 
and they will have law and order and justice, in spite of your brawl- 
ing politicians and barroom debaters. We have some glorious spirits 
in California. Amid all the dissipation, the gambling and drinking 
of the Valley towns, we have a class in the mountains — men of in- 
tellect, of scientific acquirements, that would honor any community, 
who are drawn together by a bond of union which proceeds from 
hardships endured together, a sympathetic disposition, perhaps en- 
hanced by suffering and privations; and these men are superior to 
the attraction of vice in the towns. Our Sundays and hours of leisure 
are spent together, and it is then we sometimes forget our toil and 
trials. If home and its endearments enter into the conversation, it is 
closed by the wish, and O! expressed in the most heartfelt manner, 
that if we are successful and once get home, we will meet while on 
earth at least once a year. 

The Indian tribes in the mountains are still quarreling among 
themselves. Near the Yuba, and between that river and the South 
Fork of Feather River, are the Pikeys, a thievish and treacherous 
race. On the east side of the South Fork, and between it and the 
Middle Fork of the Feather, are the Olos, 4 a tribe entirely friendly 
with the whites. A battle between the two tribes took place a few 
days ago, about three miles from this place, in which two of the Olos 
were wounded and three of the Pikeys killed. The object of the 
battle appeared to be to steal squaws, and during the fray the squaws 
of the Olos were protected by a strong guard. While they were en- 
gaged a miner happened to come along and called out to the Pikeys 
to desist and go home. One of the warriors replied to him by an 
insulting and indecent gesture, when the miner coolly raised his 
rifle and applied a bullet plaster to the exposed part of the reckless 
savage, and dropped him in his tracks. The Pikeys then desisted, 

3 Admission Day was September 9, 1850, but the news did not reach San Francisco until 
October 18 following. Pen-Knife Sketches, x. 

4 Pikey and Olo are evidently names of villages or village chiefs, or both, of the Maidu. 


but gave notice to the Olos that they would come again today and 
try it over. Several whites turned out from our settlement to see the 
fun, but the Pikeys did not appear, though the Olos are summoning 
their friends to be ready for a grand affair. They were highly de- 
lighted with the medical practice of the old miner, and are describ- 
ing the scene with much gusto to the whites at work on the various 

Truly yours, 



Independence, September 1, 1850. 1 

I am one hundred and fifty miles in the mountains, amid the most 
sublime scenery I ever saw, where the snow still lingers on the hills 
and where the ice freezes in our buckets every night. In this pure and 
bracing atmosphere there is no sickness, and two months from this 
time the living throng who forced their way into these wilds will be 
compelled to return to the Valley to escape the deep snows which 
will then encumber this desolate portion of California. My transit 
from the Valley was a series of adventures which I have partially 
and briefly detailed to the N. O. True Delta, 2 one of whose corres- 
pondents I am (by request — I write none others), and it was one 
of the most interesting excursions I ever made. 

I will not detail it to you, as there is subject matter enough left 
for a full communication without it. The evening previous to my 

1 Free Trader, November 16, 1850. 

2 Apparently not published. 


leaving Marysville I had the felicity of receiving your welcome 
letter and one from my wife, being the only ones I have received 
from Ottawa since the date of the 25th March. I also received a 
copy of the Free Trader, being the fourth number which has reached 
me in California. 

Hereafter direct all communication to Marysville, Yuba County. 
I wish I had more of as attentive correspondents as yourself, for one 
of our greatest pleasures is receiving letters from home — as a proof 
of this — "Hello, Handy" (a capital fellow from Albion, Michigan, 
and whose tent joins mine) — "had you rather get a letter from home 
and go without your dinner, with a mountain appetite, or get your 
dinner and go without the letter?" — "I had rather have the letter 
anytime — why, there's no comparison." That's my case exactly, so 
send on your letters. I am in the region of the fabulous Gold Lake, 3 
but even here there are, as elsewhere, good and poor diggings, and 
many a poor fellow is delving away without being able scarcely to 
earn the salt for his porridge, while a few, a very few, are doing 
well or passably so, and yet this is the richest portion of golden Cali- 
fornia which I have seen. — You know my predictions with regard 
to the sufferings of the coming overland emigrants. They are pour- 
ing in upon us and in such a condition as to excite pity from hearts 
of stone. Last year the great fault of the emigrants was in loading. 
The present year the emigrants seem to have fallen into the other 
extreme. They had not provisions enough, and then many started 
with horses for the sake of greater speed. 

Last year the grass was unusually good, better than it had been 
for many years. But now, either from drought or heavy snows, the 
grass was dried up, or the melting snows filled the valleys with 
water and overflowed the grassy bottoms. The valley of the Hum- 
boldt, where we traveled many days along the borders of the stream, 
this year was a vast lake and the emigrants were obliged to take the 
hills, frequently making long and laborious detours to avoid or get 
around side valleys where scarcely any forage could be obtained. I 
recollect one place where they were compelled to go thirty miles 
over difficult mountains out of their course to make about six. One 
man paid an Indian fifteen dollars to swim to a little island on the 
Humboldt and bring over grass enough to feed his mule. Under 
these circumstances teams gave out, horses and mules broke down, 
provisions were exhausted, and hundreds of miles from the settle- 
ments and far from aid, men, women and children were left entirely 
destitute, without a mouthful to eat and without the means of get- 

3 The rumor of a lake with golden pebbles appears to have started in 1849; in the summer 
of 1850 it gathered momentum, aided by interested traders. By the end of the year 
swarms of unattached miners were combing the Sierra in search of the lake. The name 
Gold became attached to a body of water in Plumas County, but it had ordinary pebbles. 
Gudde, California Place Names. 


ting forward. Perhaps a broken-down horse or mule would be left 
to carry a remnant of supplies; yet even without this slender aid, you 
might see even mothers wading through the deep dust or the heavy 
sand of the desert, or climbing mountain steeps leading their poor 
children by the hand; or the once strong man pale, emaciated by 
hunger and fatigue, carrying his feeble infant on his back, crying 
for water and nourishment, and appeasing a ravenous appetite 
from the carcass of a dead mule or horse, and when they sink ex- 
hausted upon the ground at night, overcome with weariness and 
want of nourishment, it was only with the certainty of the morning 
sun they would have to go through with the same or greater evils. Is 
it strange, then, that under such destitution and misery, where for 
weeks a draught of good water could not be had, many preferred 
suicide to this living death? In one day on the Humboldt, three men 
and two women drowned themselves. The men were observed and 
taken out once, but they persisted in declaring that death was pre- 
ferable and succeeded in committing the desperate deed. The wom- 
en had families and, unable longer to witness the suffering of their 
children with no prospect of relief, chose the dreadful alternative. I 
can well appreciate their feelings; for although my sufferings last 
year were not so great, yet I have seen many a day when death had 
no terrors. By the earliest who succeeded in reaching the Valley the 
sufferings of the emigrants were made known and large and liberal 
contributions of provisions were made and sent out. In addition, 
traders forced themselves over the snows of the Sierra as far as the 
Humboldt, but these supplies were scarcely felt. Five pounds of 
flour were doled out to a man from the free supplies, and afterwards 
reduced to two and a half, with which they had to travel two hun- 
dred miles, and the traders asked two and a half dollars a pound for 
flour and pork. Hundreds had no money, and even if they had, a 
large amount would be required to obtain enough to sustain a fam- 
ily through. Of course all were not thus destitute. Some arrived who 
had provided themselves well, but hundreds and hundreds suffered 
thus. And now what will they do when they arrive? Though labor is 
nominally from five to eight dollars a day, there is not sufficient em- 
ployment for even those who wintered here, and while a few, very 
few, may strike a good lead and do well, the great mass can scarcely 
get enough to sustain life. We shall see more suffering, more destitu- 
tion this winter than there ever has been, and although there is gold 
in the mountains, the indefatigable attempt to get it of those who 
came a year ago without success, wheresoever courage, strength 
and manhood have been used to their full extent, surely should con- 
vince you at home that it is folly to forsake a living business at 
home and come here in the desperate search of gold. I saw a few 
days since an old friend of mine from Indiana who had just arrived. 
He had suffered on the plains, but he got through. 


He was a scientific engineer, an industrious worthy man, and do- 
ing well at home. He had got a temporary berth as engineer on a 
small steamboat at a hundred dollars a month, when he could have 
got more at home. "Why did you come here?" I asked. "Did not all 
our letters discourage further emigration?" "Yes, but you said there 
was gold here, and we thought we could get it if you could — that we 
could get it if anybody could; besides too, to speak frankly, we 
thought that as so many were getting rich they only wrote such 
letters back to keep others away. And the statements in the papers 
too, of the immense sums received from California and extracts 
taken from California papers of rich diggings being continually 
discovered, of those who had dug large sums in a few days or weeks, 
made us think that your letters of advice were dictated by sinister 
motives or that you had not given a correct view of the subject." 
"Well, what do you think of it now — are you satisfied?" 
"I am — I have seen the Elephant and I wish myself at home." 
I have asked the same questions of many and always with the 
same result. Our honest statements have been either disbelieved or 
have been ascribed to a motive which does not exist, that of keeping 
our friends away. 

I have sometimes concluded a conversation with many a poor 
fellow who has become entrapped, by saying what I believe to be 
true: "Gentlemen, the gold is here — now get it." I can tell you of 
men who have dug from ten to twenty pounds of gold in a day, but 
for one such man I can show you a thousand who have made no 
more than their living. I have seen lumps of gold that weighed sev- 
eral pounds, but for every large lump I have seen hundreds who had 
not money enough to pay for a dinner. A few who have gone home 
in the intoxication of success may extol the country and the ease of 
getting rich. They are the few lucky ones whom fortune has favored. 
Friends and Fellow Countrymen, if you are determined to come, do 
so. If you are fortunate, why, well; but if you share the fate of thou- 
sands who have gone before you, the consequences be upon your 
own heads. 

I think the course pursued by the conductors of the press in Cali- 
fornia highly reprehensible in the matter of reporting what I know 
to be an unfair condition of things respecting gold digging which is 
one cause of promoting emigration. Under the head of "News from 
the Mines," glorious accounts are given of the success of various 
individuals which are calculated to deceive you at home. A few 
lucky adventurers are reported, the amount raised by each in a short 
time, &c, &c. This may be true. But not one word is said of the dis- 
appointed thousands of those who have worked a whole year with- 
out success. Were they to place in one column the cost of outfit, the 
expense of living and of operating there, the number of unsuccessful 
miners and business men against the number of lucky ones and the 


amount raised by them, it would present a fearful array of figures 
against California. I believe there have been more fortunes made 
here by trading and speculation than by mining. The hundred- 
thousand-dollar men are those who have got rich by speculations, 
trade or gambling. 

Nearly all the claims on the South Fork of Feather River have 
failed as high as the canon. 4 

Four or five have proved good. A company a mile below String- 
town who had made three or four thousand dollars last winter on 
the Middle Fork took up a claim a little above on the South Fork, 
built a dam and race at an expense of two thousand dollars and did 
not get a dollar. Another company built a dam and race at an ex- 
pense of over fourteen thousand dollars and did not get three hun- 
dred. 5 A dozen companies in the vicinity erected dams at from three 
to ten thousand dollars, and after enduring the labor of prospecting 
in the winter rains, building cabins, making roads over mountains 
and suffering incredible hardships with the fortitude which belongs 
to the American race, have relinquished their claims without getting 
a dollar, perfectly bankrupt and in debt for the very bread they ate 
while at work with high anticipations of a fair remuneration. And 
the traders too have suffered by extending credits to those men who 
would pay them if they could — but cannot. I know the most of these 
men personally, and a more industrious and honorable class of men 
do not exist. In the grand rush to Gold Lake two months ago, thou- 
sands of men were in the mountains making the search, and what 
was the consequence? Why, some good deposits were found and a 
few made rich or comfortably off, but the great mass made nothing. 
So it is here. And who is to blame for holding such high attributes to 
California, for showing but one side of the picture, which induces 
men, women and children to leave home, friends and comforts to 
launch forth into a sea of uncertainty, of misery, death, and only of 
doubtful success, but those through whom they glean their informa- 
tion, the conductors of the presses? The failure of dams is not con- 
fined to Feather River alone, but so far as I can learn, it is about the 
same on all the streams which have been extensively dammed to get 
at the bed of the stream. Perhaps my statements may not be credited 
by those who rely upon the arrivals of gold quoted in the papers and 
by the more ardent at home. All I have to say then is, "Come and try 
it yourselves — the gold is in the mountains — get it." 

In a letter to Hon. J. D. Caton which I see you have published, 6 
I spoke of the condition of things with regard to land titles and 
squatters' rights. The matter has been festering until it has reached 

4 Apparently about a mile and a half above Enterprise. Cf. p. 38. 

5 This may refer to Delano's experience near Stringtown. Cf. p . 86. 

6 P. 46. 


a head and has broken out. Congress has delayed to admit Cali- 
fornia as a State, quarreling over an abstract question with which 
we have nothing to do 7 and thus indirectly countenancing the 
vicious and evil-disposed in their course against law and order. You 
will see by the papers the sanguinary conflict of the squatters on 
town lots in Sacramento City with the constituted authorities. 8 This 
is one of the results of the delay in allowing us to settle our own 
matters and is only a prelude to other excesses. The authorities are 
determined to maintain the laws of a State whether admitted or not, 
and I for one think it highly important for the good of society that 
they should do so. But the squatters on town lots should not be in- 
cluded with squatters on vacant lands or on the vast claims made 
under Mexican grants. For instance, if I first lay claim to 160 acres 
of land and comply with the requisitions of the law, the land proper- 
ly becomes mine. If I lay out a town on this 160 acres, which is all I 
can hold by law, my right extends over the whole plat. If another 
person occupies one of my town lots he trespasses on my equitable 
rights, and it is in some such way that the difficulty originated at 
Sacramento City, the squatters refusing to yield their claims to the 
original proprietors, although there is another dispute with the first 
occupants on account of its being held as a Mexican grant. — It is 
certain that the plat was laid out before a State government was 
organized. The Sacramento squatters are a formidable body of men 
determined to have a home, but I think they will finally be compelled 
to yield. 9 But there is another question in embryo which will not be 
so easily settled, and that is squatting on government land — rather 
upon Mexican grants, for there is not three hundred square miles 
of desirable land such as can be cultivated in California but what is 
claimed by a few individuals under Mexican grants. The squatters 
on this land have the sympathies of the mass of the population, for 
they think it unreasonable that the few should control the many and 
deprive them of an abiding place in a new country like this, and 
under the circumstances which brought them here and compelled 
them to stay. Here then is another serious affair in embryo and a 
matter which will be yielded only at the point of the bayonet. Unless 
Congress settles the matter in some equitable way soon, difficulties 
of a most serious nature will ensue. 

I think I have written you respecting the miners' law on claims. 
This is a matter which takes care of itself and is as faithfully obeyed 
as any law of Congress, and it is hardly written, much less printed. 
I appealed a few days ago to the President of the Association for a 

7 The issue of whether it should be a slave or free State. Robert G. Cleland, History of 
California: The American Period (New York, 1922), 257-261. 

8 The Squatter Riots of August 14 and 15. Cf. Sacramento Transcript, August 15-16, 1850. 

9 They were. Royce, op. cit. 


copy of the law for the purpose of sending it home for publication. 
After a diligent search, it was ascertained that but a single copy 
existed, and that was ten miles distant. But it is well understood, and 
when you hear of one miner suing another on a disputed claim, it is 
not before a judicial tribunal but before the self-constituted miners' 

But I talk so much of California that I doubt not you, as well as 
your readers, are wearied — and surely it is no pleasure for me to 
describe the actual condition of things as I see them. When you get 
tired of paying the postage on my lucubrations, say so, and I will 
trouble you no more. 

Perhaps I repeat things over and over like old story-tellers; I keep 
no copies of my letters and cannot tell what I have written before. 
I should be glad to get the Free Trader, but the only paper I get 
from the States with any degree of regularity is the True Delta, 
which comes through my friend Mr. Grant. 

It is now sickly in the Valley, chill, fevers, ague and flux prevail- 
ing; but in the mountains as high as this nobody is sick. 

Send all communications through New York. 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 


Independence, October 20, 1850. 1 

It is with a kind of desperation that I seize the pen this morning as 
an antidote to ennui. The miners have been mostly frightened away 
by a succession of stormy weather, rain in the valleys and snow on 
the mountains; and I am also preparing to evacuate these diggings 
in two or three days. I shall remove to the mouth of the creek 2 four 
miles below, where about two hundred and fifty men are preparing 
winter quarters where, by the appearance of the trees, the snow falls 
forty or fifty feet deep. 

The miners who are left here are all out at work, and I went out 
and rocked the cradle an hour or so for pastime, and got only 
twenty-five cents; so I gave it up, and not to let the time hang 
heavily on my hands, I take up my pen to make you pay a postage 
to Uncle Samuel, who never refuses such contributions, although 
his boys may grumble sometimes at having to make them. I shall 
return to the Valley as soon as I dispose of my traps, and then I 
have several operations in view. I generally succeed better at hard 
work than in mining, and I have discovered, after an outlay of two 

1 True Delta, December 17, 1850. 

2 Nelson Creek. 


thousand dollars, that my steamboat force and horsepower is not 
equal to the labor of digging and sweltering in the sun. I have talked 
so much of scenery that people must be tired of it; but Heaven 
knows that if they had a spice of my disposition, they would never 
weary in looking at what there is around us here. Eight miles from 
here is an old volcano. y I had a fair view of it yesterday, and before 
I go to the Valley I shall visit it. At its base is the richest deposit yet 
found in this vicinity. If I could get ropes and the right men to 
handle them I would see what there is inside — that is, I would go 
into it as far as I could and be pulled out again; I'll have a peep any- 
how. I am cogitating a subject for one of these days, but I want to 
go below first — I mean "the present state of California." 

I think when the sufferings of the emigrants both on the plains 
and after their arrival is known at home, our people will begin to 
see California stripped of her gaudy robes, her paint and outward 
adornments, which have been so liberally heaped upon her by 
thoughtless letter-writers and culpable editors, and they will be con- 
tent to stay at home and reap their own grain, and enjoy the com- 
forts which they really possess, rather than come here to starve or 
pick up what would be thrown from their own tables at home to 
satisfy the cravings of hunger. The greatness of California 1 . Faugh! 
Great for what and for whom? Great at present as an outlet to a 
portion of the surplus wheat, pork and clothes, blacklegs, prosti- 
tutes and vicious at home, and for the would-be politicians of the 
country and the ultras who quarrel over us in Washington. Oregon 
will be the greatest of the two, and here is another theme. She will 
have more wealth in time by selling her potatoes to us at five dollars 
per bushel, her lumber at thirty dollars per M, her flour, her pork, 
and soon her woolens, her leather, &c, &c, than we shall have with 
all our mines. If I was a politician (thank God / am not), I would 
gather statistics enough to satisfy any political economist on this 

I am a little curious to learn what effect a residence in California 
has had upon that portion of emigrants who have returned, whether 
they have as easily relapsed into steady habits again when surround- 
ed by the moral influences of our old country, as they (not all, be it 
understood) fell into the snares of vice without any such restraint 
here. Could not we get up some tall lectures on what we have seen — 
eh? The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by that most beauti- 
ful of all writers, Gibbon, or the rise and progress of Mormonism, 
couldn't hold a candle to it; it's the subject I mean, not our style or 
descriptive powers. 

It is noon and near dinnertime. Will you join me? Don't fear a 
griddle-cake infliction. No, no, just a plain family dinner — fried 

3 Little Volcano, in Plumas County. 


potatoes and ham. I made some gingerbread yesterday — all but the 
ginger (that I couldn't get) — it's good, too, and that shall be our 
dessert. Will you have a glass of wine? — just bring it along, for I 
haven't got it; but there is chocolate enough left from my breakfast 
to warm over again. Come, boys, move that monte bank off the 
table; the Colonel 4 and I want to dine. Hardy, drive that mule out 
of the tent; let him wait till we get through. There, Colonel, scrape 
off that old cigar, take that keg and go your death. Pshaw! Colonel, 
don't pick your teeth with the fork; take your bowie knife. What's 
the use of being so effeminate? Now, tumble down on my mattress 
and take a siesta, while I talk to the boys. 

I have been sketching a little since I have been here, and succeed 
in getting correct outlines much better than I hoped for; but no 
pencil can do justice to the sublime scenery of the mountains. You 
shall have an impress of the Middle Fork volcano. 5 If in going into 
it I meet old Pluto, I will get a description of the infernal regions, 
and if I find him in a communicative humor, I will ask him to ex- 
plain the cause of the "mysterious knockings" which are bothering 
brother Greeley and many other wise ones at home. I wish I was 
rich enough to stop work. I would just make one grand tour through 
this mountain range, for you not only get one magnificent view but 
you see a hill ahead that you long to be on for the sake of another. 
Once there, something new, varied and grand entices you on like an 
ignis jatuus, so that there seems no end, and you are compelled to 
remain unsatisfied — as I am to wind up for want of paper. 



4 Unidentified. Probably not Grant, who was busy in Sacramento. 

5 Little Volcano. 

6 Horace Greeley, editor of the widely read and copied New York Tribune. This must 
refer to some item concerning the ever-popular subject of spiritualism. 


Marysville, October 31, 1850. 1 

I've "come down," in the language of the monte dealers, but not in 
their sense of the expression, with the dust. 

I have only made a transit from the mountain snows of the Sierra 
to the sunny Vale of the Sacramento, unharmed by the desperado 
or the treacherous savage, and I once more move in the throng of 
civilized man — a washed, combed and shaven hombre. I see many 
changes in matters and things which have occurred during my last 
sojourn in the mountains, but presuming that your other corres- 

1 True Delta, December 17, 1850. 


pondents will keep you sufficiently advised of them, I will speak now 
of mountain life. 

I was as near the Gold Lake as any one probably ever was, and 
although I saw its blue and ice-cold water, I did not see its golden 
pebbles. The country, however, is highly auriferous in its appear- 
ance, and I do not doubt that another season will make rich de- 
velopments. It is a high, broken range of stupendous hills and deep 
gulches, where the labor of gaining access is only equaled by the 
toil of digging gold — where the sun is seen in the ravines scarcely 
before nine or ten o'clock in the morning, and disappears behind 
the snowy peaks at four o'clock in the afternoon. By the indications 
on the trees, the snow falls to the depth of forty feet — perhaps 
deeper; yet, in this sterile and gloomy region, hundreds of hardy 
men are preparing to pass the winter, which lasts from November to 
the 1st of July. To do this, comfortable log cabins are built, and 
supplies of provisions are packed up on mules, and for the sake of 
being on the ground before the crowd can get up from the Valley 
in the spring, they are contented to be buried in the snow, where 
even the grizzly bear cannot subsist, depending upon their own re- 
sources to while away the gloomy hours of their long winter. The 
experience of the last season has developed many things which will 
be highly useful to future operations, but I shall speak more par- 
ticularly of this in some subsequent communication. When you hear 
of new placers being found, of new diggings discovered, you need 
not be surprised. These things are of almost daily occurrence, not 
only regions just explored, but on ground which had been passed 
over and over by the hardy gold hunter. It has been pretty well 
tested that the beds of streams are not, as a general thing, the place 
to look for large deposits. In my explorations of last winter, I did 
not pass the granite range, but this summer I was far beyond it and 
saw a geological combination of strata which I do not recollect 
being noticed by any author. In the Gold Lake Mountains I ob- 
served strata of quartz and slate combined in such a manner as to 
form a single rock. They were so closely blended that one seemed 
to pass into the other without any line to mark the change, and like 
the delicate shading of a fine picture, you could not tell where either 
began. Sometimes on breaking a piece of slate, the fracture showed 
you a quartz combination, and often the fractured quartz presented 
the shadowing of slate. I saved and brought down a few beautiful 
specimens. But here, as elsewhere, the earth was of a reddish brown 
cast, and the gold proving by its spherical form that it had not been 
washed far from its original place of deposit. 

During my stay at Gold Lake, I visited an extinct volcano. 2 The 
mass of matter which had been thrown out was quartz (at least it is 
called so), apparently mixed with some substance which rendered 

2 Little Volcano. 


it as hard as flint and by the action of fire presented many fantasti- 
cal forms — in some instances translucent — sometimes with the 
crystals perfectly formed, at others partially destroyed. I preserved a 
few fine specimens. There was no lava, and some of the peculiar 
volcanic debris which I have often observed in the Rocky Moun- 
tains and on the hills west of the Sierra Nevada, in the Oregon 
Range. Outcrops of slate appeared at and near the base; and along 
the river bank, directly at the foot of the mountain, one of the rich- 
est deposits was found which I have known, one man taking out 
$1,500 in a single pan full. I do not, however, give this as a speci- 
men of the richness of the placer, for this was about all that was 
found in that spot. Since the general failure of dams, experiments 
have been made by sinking shafts in the hills and ravines, and this, 
at the depth of from ten to twenty feet, has been attended with 
success in many instances. It is necessary to go to the bedrock, 
which is done with great labor often. These latter experiments have 
been made in the mountains immediately bordering the Valley, 
from six to fifteen miles distant. It seems as if gold loses its value 
with miners. Some — indeed many who are successful — save their 
earnings; yet multitudes, after months of toil and privation, first 
in hunting a location through rain and snow or in the broiling sun, 
and then in the labor of digging, when they begin to reap the re- 
ward of their perseverance, squander it away as if its very possession 
burned their ringers. 

When I first went to Independence, there were companies who 
every day took out from one hundred and fifty to two hundred dol- 
lars. This continued for three weeks, when the equinoctial storm 
came on with rain and snow. Fearing they would be caught by the 
deep snow which falls so high up, they became panic-stricken and 
fled from the diggings. When they left, many had not money to pay 
small bills due for provisions. The reason was simply that they had 
gambled it away, and on reaching the Valley I saw some of these 
very men at work for their board, and some at a nominal price of 
six dollars a day. Wherever good placers are found the gambler is 
sure to follow; and another fashion is fast coming into use, which 
will be fully so when that philanthropic importation arrives from 
France? Well, somebody will be benefited by the improvidence of 


3 Prostitution. 



Sacramento City, November 5, 1850. 1 

... As for the aristocracy of wealth, I don't know what it is here, 
nor the aristocracy of employment, and that is one of the good fea- 
tures of the country. Look at that rough-looking customer driving 
a dray, and now look into that eating house or hotel, at that plainly 
dressed woman behind the counter or waiting upon the table. How 
do you know but that the drayman has been a member of Congress, 
is a gentleman of education and distinction, or the woman a lady of 
refined manners, reared in the lap of luxury, and with a high order 
of talents? Go to an evening party; they may be the life and soul of 
as elite, as polished a circle as you ever saw. What would you think 
of a man selling newspapers about the streets of Ottawa? Would 
your aristocrats make him at home in their circles? I tell you (for I 
know him well ) that a more polished gentleman does not exist. His 
acquirements are of the highest order, and he could fascinate you 
with his intellectual conversation, and no one man in California 
possesses more influence with the mass, who is more courted or 
more trusted than he, and all doors are open to receive him. He can 
be the madman or the critic as he pleases, and he knows what he is 
about! Yet selling newspapers in the streets of this city is his em- 
ployment. 2 

Intellect is the true aristocracy as yet, and "birds of a feather 
flock together." Sans hat, shoes or shirts. If employment were to 
drive a man from kindred association where the d — 1 should I 
find company? 

Since I have been a citizen of this ilk, I have actually and bona 
fide been teamster, cook, canal digger, engineer, doctor, merchant, 
mule driver, miner, artist, and speculator, mended my own clothes, 
washed my own shirts, the last a confounded mean job, and I al- 
ways mentally exclaimed, God help the poor women! as I was rub- 
bing in the soap, and went barefoot for two weeks. 

1 Free Trader, November 28, 1950. The editor thus explains the lacuna in this letter: "We 
received a long and more than usual interesting letter from our valuable friend Mr. 
Delano in the recent California mail but, by some unavoidable accident, a large portion 
of this valuable communication was irrevocably destroyed. The letter was dated at Sacra- 
mento City November 5. He had just returned from the mountains, where he had been 
for a number of months, and in his ablest style he fully detailed the many changes which 
had taken place in the city during his absence. It seemed as though he had gotten into a 
strange city. The streets which had been lined with tents, were now walled in with large 
and substantial buildings both of brick and of wood. Society had also assumed a more 
refined character. Magnificent hotels had been erected, with bars and saloons decorated 
with handsome paintings and engravings in gaudy frames, while luxuries had become as 
common almost as in the states. With this magnificence and luxury, however, vice, 
licentiousness and debauchery has increased, and now stalks in broad daylight, in its more 
loathsome forms, uninterrupted through the streets." 

2 This is Colonel Grant. 


Really though, if I was going to a party either in Illinois or Sacra- 
mento, I would sew up the holes in my pants and get a pair of shoes 
or not go, just to save the feelings of my friends who might be a 
little scrupulous, for in "Turkey you must do as the Turkeys do" 
and gobble accordingly. When I lived with the Indians, I paid a 
decent regard to their feelings and customs, and in extreme hot 
days only wore my shirt, and the only remark it occasioned was the 
ridiculous whiteness of my legs; but they called me "topeWanamah" 
(good fellow) and seemed to regard me as one of their own kind. 

I am at this moment a citizen of the world with nothing to do. 
Desirous of a little relaxation I came here on a visit to my friend 
Colonel Grant, and he has invited me to go to San Francisco with 
him. We leave at noon to return in three days, and I promise my- 
self a feast as well from his companionship as from a new view of 
the Pacific. When I return, it will be "work, work, work" like Robin 
Rougham. 3 "Nothing in the world but work," but whether it will be 
in the preaching line, blacking boots, selling matches or pork and 
potatoes, I cannot tell. There are two questions which always puzzle 
me to answer. Where I live and what my business is. It is just any- 
where and anything which turns up. If you want to go into a specu- 
lation come out and I will give you a share (thirty lots) in Yates- 
ton or Hamilton. If you want business you may go snucks with my 
Indians in catching salmon or crickets. 

Cholera is here, thirty to sixty deaths per day. 4 Gamblers begin- 
ning to be frightened and many leaving. Business falling off rapid- 
ly. There appears to be a greasing up of the clouds and we begin to 
look for the rains. I have seen none of the Ottawa boys lately ex- 
cept Robert Brown. He told me that all whom he had heard from 
who were engaged in damming the rivers had lost money. I have 
not seen Fredenburg nor B. K. Thorn since I parted from them last 
fall and have only two or three times heard from them indirectly. 
I do not know where they are or what their success has been. It is 
strange I do not get the Free Trader. I have received only five num- 
bers, but letters come now with much regularity. How many of you 
citizens may we expect next year? 

The great wealth obtained by those who came out last year, the 
exquisite pleasure of the trip enjoyed by those who came this sum- 
mer, together with the brilliant prospects before them this winter, 
will induce another heavy emigration. Plenty of gold dust in the 
mountains, boys; only get it. 


A. Delano. 

3 Delano probably means Robin Roughhead, a poor cottager and farm laborer, hero of a 
romantic comedy of 1799 entitled Fortune's Frolic, by John T. Allingham. 

4 Sixty to 120 deaths a day were reported, and four fifths of the population left town, 
during the great epidemic of October and November, 1850. History of Sacramento (Oak- 
land, 1880), 56-57. 



San Francisco, November 15, 1850. 1 

Dig, dig, dig, and so I did, till I dug two thousand dollars and over, 
but hang me if I didn't dig it out of pocket instead of in. I prospected 
through spectacles and canons with spectacles and without, and 
such spectacles as I saw of men who had dug and worked till their 
faces were gaunt and their nether garments were dilapidated, with 
pockets torn off, proved the truth of the old saw that "all is not gold 
that glitters." 2 So I came to the conclusion that if I was made for 
the mountains the mountains were not made for me to get rich in. 
I had heard, too, that to make money a man must go where people 
are, for there the money is. I had been where people were not, and 
I knew it didn't pay, so I commenced prospecting in new diggings. 

When I left Marysville I had no more idea of going below Sacra- 
mento City than you have of going to the moon, but I wanted to see 
Colonel Grant. You know him — so do I, like a book — Mem., keep 
a copy of that book always on hand. 

1 True Delta, January 9, 1951. 

2 Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, II, vii, 65. 


Now, how he treated me I shan't say, only that if he has many 
such hangers-on, he'll be ruined; from which, and from his multi- 
tude of friends, "God deliver him." If he had only one shirt he'd 
tear it in two and give the half to a friend. He was going to San 
Francisco and invited me to accompany him, an offer which my 
modesty could not resist, especially as the True Delta is, somehow, 
a password not to be questioned by steamboat men on the Sacra- 
mento when it comes through his lips. I had heard of San Francisco, 
a kind of out-of-the-way place in the lowlands, where barbarians 
from all countries congregated, where the fulsomeness of their ridi- 
culous fashions, manners, and customs offends the eye, and I de- 
termined to go, even at the expense of losing caste. You know I 
came across the plains, that I have lived chiefly in the mountains, 
that I have sung of the native beauties in their grass aprons and 
costumes a la Nature, that I have praised the noble-hearted miners 
with their flowing beards, that I have described the scenery of the 
hills, and that my experience in the world above (I mean up the 
River) is such that I can see and judge without prejudice, however 
different things may be from what I have been accustomed to. 
Pshaw! there's no egotism in that — not here, anyhow — so don't 
pucker your mouth yet; you'll pucker it worse by and by. 

Did you ever hear of the New World? Not Captain Columbus's 
nor any of the islands about New Orleans. I mean the steamboat on 
the Sacramento, Captain Wakeman — ain't she a crack boat, and 
ain't the Captain some? 3 Everything on board goes like clockwork 
except the engine, and that goes by steam, and the boat goes like a 
locomotive. Everything in tip-top style, cabins, tables, staterooms, 
magnificent; cook, steward, chamber-Z>oy, and waiter, civil and 
obliging, and the Captain's a gentleman. Can I say more? It will 
pay a man to lay over a week just to make a trip on her. Well, we 
went on board. The cholera was bad at Sacramento, and Colonel 
Grant was not well. A rumbling in the lower regions was a premoni- 
tory symptom, and knowing that No. 6 was good for the epidemic, 
he wisely took stateroom No. 6, which with a free use of morphine, 
cayenne pepper, and camphor finally quieted the symptomatic in- 
dication of volcanic eruption. This is a horrible volcanic country 
about these days. I found the country as we passed along most 
tediously level, and I sighed for fifty pounds' weight on my back and 
a mountain to climb. How awfully dull it was, not a hill which 
would make a greenhorn puff, and the poor engine had to do it all. 

We arrived at San Francisco before daylight, and I sallied out 

3 Captain Edgar Wakeman (1818-1875). Coincidentally, Wakeman also commanded a 
steamboat named the New Orleans on the Sacramento in 1850. He later earned the ad- 
miration of Mark Twain, who immortalized him three times as a Captain in fiction and 
who publicly solicited aid when Wakeman was old, ill, and needy. Morse, First History 
of Sacramento, 56; San Francisco Alta California, December 14, 1872; May 10, 1875; 
Ivan Benson, Mark Twain's Western Years (Stanford University, 1938), 152. 


after sunrise to view a scene which to me was entirely new. How 
sadly was I disappointed. I had heard the beauty of the Bay de- 
scribed, its capacity to hold thousands of ships, and the town as a 
city. Why, gentlemen, I couldn't see the Bay at all, for the ships, 
jammed together like a vast forest of dead pines, hid it entirely, and 
I "couldn't see the town for houses." Now there isn't a single 
rancheria in California that you can't see the whole at a glance with 
all the women and children; and here you couldn't begin — it was 
abominable. A stranger would require a guide to find his way to 
any point along the trails, and had it not been for the kind care of 
Colonel Grant, I should have been prospecting up to this time — a 
lost miner in the gulches. All the people, and the trails were full as 
if they had found new diggings, wore clothes — actually fine white 
shirts, dress coats, and whole pants, with hair combed and brushed 
like new wigs, boots blacked, and you could scarcely find a check 
or red flannel shirt in the whole crowd. And then there were carts, 
drays, candy stands, bookracks, newsboys, and the Lord knows 
what all in the trails, so plenty that it kept me on a dogtrot to elbow 
my way through and keep up with the Colonel. Why, I actually saw 
a woman, at least the Colonel said it was one, with a parasol over 
her head, a bonnet on, and hang me if she wasn't dressed all over 
in silk. Thinks I to myself, she never drove team on the sand plain 
nor made acorn bread in a ranch, poor thing. Here she is cooped up 
in town without knowing anything of the beauties of nature! I pitied 
her from my soul. 

Everybody knew Colonel Grant just as if he had always lived in 
the mountains, and they all seemed glad to see him, shaking hands 
till his arm ached, and finally they got to shaking hands with his 
shadow. I was his shadow, for the tall houses hid the sun so that he 
couldn't have any other. So I shook hands till my legs ached, and I 
finally told the Colonel he must get another shadow, for I was used 
up. "Well," says he, "let's go to sea." "Go to see who?" says I. 
"Pshaw! I mean prospecting on the Bay." "Very well," said I, "I'm 
ready, pick in hand; lead, I'll follow your trail." So he made tracks 
for a wherry, and after pulling a long way out, we brought up at the 
foot of the barque Constance, Captain Barry, from Salem. 4 Here 
was a relief — we couldn't go on board without climbing, and I be- 
gan to feel at home. Climbing the side of a tall ship was no ways 
equal to climbing a hill five miles high, and the time it took was 
ridiculously small, but it rested me exceedingly, although it was 

4 Captain John Barry (1805 or 1806-1876), a native of Salem. He was second officer of 
the Friendship of Salem when she was cut off and captured by Malays on the coast of 
Sumatra in 1831. The Constance arrived at San Francisco on August 10, 1850, 177 days 
from Boston, and departed for Manila November 15 following. San Francisco Aha Cali- 
fornia, August 11, 1850; Sacramento Transcript, November 18, 1850; Salem (Massa- 
chusetts) Register, January 24, 1876; San Francisco Pacific Marine Review, September, 


prospecting on an entirely new trail. We were met on deck by Cap- 
tain Barry, whose frank and cordial hospitality was equal to that of 
an old miner. I somehow felt at home at once, on being ushered into 
the cabin. That perhaps is not strange, for I have lived in cabins or 
tents nearly all the time I have been in California, and the fashion 
of climbing to get into it was much more agreeable than that of 
stepping off of a flagstone into a hotel; and here, too, I could see a 
check shirt and a tarpaulin hat without that everlasting bowing and 
scraping of the barbarians on shore, and the masts, so trim and 
straight, put me in mind of the glorious old pines of the mountains. 
Thinks I to myself, this going to sea is not so bad after all. The sea- 
faring hombres are a civilized race with souls as large as their ships. 

We met several captains of other ships on board, and somehow, 
between tales of the ocean and tales of the mountains and desert, 
the time slipped like a mountain slide, and it was tea time before 
a gulch was tested. "Captain," says Grant, "shall you have any 
griddle cakes for supper?" "I do not think my cook knows how to 
make them," replied Captain Barry. "Come, D., roll up your sleeves 
and go into the cookroom and go at it," said G. The captains all 
laughed at the idea — "He cook? What does he know about cooking? 
No, no, that's breaking ground a little too strong." "I tell you what," 
said G., "I must have griddle cakes for supper, and he can make 
them — I know it." "Captain," says I, rising and throwing off my 
coat and cap, "don't you know that I came across the plains and 
have lived in the mountains? Did you ever see a miner who could 
not cook, wash, mend, make shoes, prospect, and spin yarns? Tell 
the cook to tote up the flour, and I'll tote up the cakes." We had 
griddle cakes for tea — I made 'em, and G. said they were better 
than those I made for him last fall on Mud Hill. 

Captain Welsh, of the Merlin, 5 was on board, and he gave a most 
interesting account of a recent visit to Loo Choo, one of the de- 
pendencies of Japan. It seemed to me that there were many particu- 
lars connected with his visit which would be of importance to our 
government to know, but as the recital is his own private property, 
I shall not touch it. He is a gentleman of talents and can make out 
(as he intends doing) a highly interesting document respecting that 
strange and peculiar people. I hope you will get his letter, and I 
promise you a rich treat from its perusal. 

We passed two nights on shipboard enjoying the hospitality of 
Captain Barry, whom I shall long remember, spending our days 
among the barbarians on shore. I might give you a labored descrip- 
tion of San Francisco, but I have hardly time now to go into particu- 
lars. I don't think you have got a clear idea of it from any descrip- 

5 Perhaps Charles Welsh, an American sea captain who first came to California in 1848 
and died at San Francisco in 1883. Bancroft, History of California, V, 771. 

6 Now the Ryulcyu Islands. 


tion which I have read, nor of the manners and customs of the na- 
tives. The town is abominably crowded with people, all dressed 
from top to toe. I haven't seen a naked man or woman in the streets, 
and their ways are as outre as their appearance. The buildings are 
overgrown things with doorways so large that you can walk in 
without getting on your hands and knees. Beef and bread are so 
ruinously cheap that the very dogs are fed on it, and when a man 
uses salt, he piles it up to waste just as if it cost nothing, and I actu- 
ally saw a little boy throw away a piece of bread which he could not 
eat at once. Just think of the poor starving souls on the plains. 
Water is of no more account than if a spring lay in every gulch, and 
— well, well, live and learn — notwithstanding my repugnance, I 
have about been persuaded to spend this winter here. 



San Francisco, January 15, 185 1. 1 

One year ago this day I was hard at work in the Feather River 
mountains, whenever the rains would permit, in building a fireplace 
and finishing off a comfortable cabin on a claim which I had taken 
up, with the bright anticipation that at the present writing I would 
be comfortably seated in a snug, carpeted room at home, with my 
family around me and a few friends, discoursing upon the wonders 
which I had seen, of the perils I had encountered, and showing with 
honest pride the curious specimens which I had picked up in the 
mines of California; and what has been the result? The building was 
completed, the work done, and I never worked so hard in my whole 
life. I lived with the utmost prudence and calculated to a nicety, 
but not only that claim, but twelve others in which I was interested, 
failed — all failed, and not a dollar was obtained, and by the changes 
incident to the country, I have become a resident and man of busi- 
ness in the most astonishing city of the Union. And yet I should not 
complain — nor do I. 

With only four dollars in my pocket when I arrived at Sacra- 
mento City last year, I have contrived to handle thousands, and al- 
though a great deal of it would not stick to my fingers; yet some of 
it did, and a portion of it is in a shape which neither "moth will 
corrupt nor thieves break through and steal," being a farm on the 
navigable waters of Feather River. 2 You never would dream that 
the True Delta had been the cause of my being a resident of San 
Francisco; yet such is the fact. You know the history of my first 

1 True Delta, February 23, 1851. 

2 Matthew vi: 19. The "farm" was probably at Oleepa. 


acquaintance with Colonel Grant. By his solicitation I became your 
correspondent, and that correspondence made us acquainted with 
each other, which soon ripened into intimacy, and the True Delta 
was a bond of union between us. When I came down from the Gold 
Lake mountains in October, I paid Colonel Grant a friendly visit 
and, at his invitation, visited San Francisco for the first time, which 
resulted in my establishing myself for the time being in business 

Had it not been for the True Delta my first acquaintance with 
Colonel Grant would have ended where it began, at Mud Hill, and 
had it not been for the True Delta, I should not have classed among 
my friends one of the most generous, noble-hearted gentlemen I ever 
knew, despite of all his eccentricities. 

Men who live isolated in the mountains know but little of what 
is going on in the Valley, only in a general way, and those who live 
in the cities can scarcely understand and appreciate fully what is 
going on in the mines. Conflicting accounts often reach both parties, 
and I hesitate to describe only what I see. What I have written of 
the mountain region and such portions of California which I have 
seen, I have no reason to change. I simply described it as I saw it. 
I am now in a new sphere, and with a change of season, a change of 
climate, and a great change of association, I find myself in quite a 
new scene. And if I could make it pay I would vary the scene still 
more, for I would see the whole country — aye — and other countries 

Last year, from the 3rd of November till about the 1st of Febru- 
ary, it was pouring down "from the flood gates of Heaven" like big 
guns. The rivers overflowed their banks and more than one quarter 
of the Valley was submerged. This year, up to the present time, 
there has not been near as much rain as is usual at home, and the 
weather has been luxuriously pleasant. 

The climate on the Coast I think is healthy and decidedly desir- 
able for a residence, and were it not for three especial reasons — a 
wife and two children at home — I should not think of returning. 
The valley of Santa Clara and the country around San Jose pro- 
duce the finest vegetables in the world, as our markets, well sup- 
plied, abundantly testify, and when California shall have disen- 
thralled herself of the immorality, the vice, and hordes of Mexican 
and Sydney villains, 3 as well as a sprinkling from other countries, 
this portion of it will be desirable as a home. 

But now we are in a crisis, the result of which must bring ruin 
and misfortune to a multitude of individuals, though it may end in 
substantial benefit to the country. A failure in the mines, as well as 
a failure in the city, throws men upon their individual resources; 

3 "In the early part of the winter of 1850 . . . Sydney convicts began to arrive." Across the 
Plains, 157. 


and as the best business which has been followed the past season 
has been that of horticulture, thousands, by a natural impulse, are 
looking to Mother Earth for her bounty to replenish their pockets. 
This, of course, will develop the agricultural resources of the coun- 
try, as well as find a permanent and industrious population employ- 
ment. The country at this moment is overstocked with merchandise 
and provisions. In the mines, unless it may be in those most distant, 
there is more than can be sold during the winter; and this is the 
case in all the towns. Everything imported from the States is selling 
at a ruinous sacrifice, and as the want of rain in the mines prevents 
the dry diggings from being productive, less gold is obtained than 
was anticipated, a portion of which would go to pay for these goods. 
As soon as the upper towns and mines were supplied this fall, the 
price of many kinds of goods fell ninety per cent. Add to this the 
exorbitant rents demanded for any place to do business in, and you 
will not be surprised to hear of failures. 

There seems to be a universal stagnation in trade, and although 
there may be millions to loan on good security, scarcely any busi- 
nessman who is compelled to borrow can give the security required. 
A few days since I saw the invoice of a large lot of desirable goods 
for this market charged at Boston prices, and at higher rates than 
could be bought for here. Day before yesterday a finished house 
which had been sent out on speculation, which was said to have 
cost nearly four thousand dollars, was sold at auction to pay 
freight and brought eight hundred. This is a very common occur- 
rence; and when a man wants to build, he watches his chance to find 
a vessel selling off a cargo of lumber at auction to pay charges. 
Beautiful crushed sugar is selling at HVi cts.; best quality of lard 
at 10 and HV2 cts.; sugar-cured hams, in prime order, at 12V^ cts.; 
pickles in quart jars sold a few days since at $1.1 2Vi cts. per dozen. 
Arrivals of cargoes of merchandise are almost of daily occurrence, 
and we are advised that heavy shipments are on the way, so that I 
see no reason why this state of things may not continue for months 
to come. 

I received, a few weeks since, a large consignment of goods to 
sell on commission, and I have hardly sold enough to get back the 
small advances which I made upon them. Men are resorting to new 
methods of disposing of stocks, chiefly fancy goods, and that is by 
lottery. Heavy amounts of rich jewelry, and even a public house, 
are offered for sale in this way, tickets selling for from one to five 
dollars. But one of the most recent humbugs which has been got up 
is the astonishing discovery of Gold Bluff, up towards Klamath 
River. The very sand is so rich that it contains about one-tenth 
gold — so they say. A vessel has just returned from there with speci- 
mens of sand, but the company, instead of loading their ship down 
with the precious metal, have formed a joint stock company with a 


capital of a hundred thousand dollars and are selling off shares at a 
hundred dollars a head. What fools — when they could have made so 
much more by a week's work in sifting gold at the Bluff — ahem! But 
fools are not all dead, and they are actually making large sales of 
shares. I have seen several gentlemen of intelligence who have 
visited the spot, who say that it is a ridiculous humbug. 



San Francisco, April 1, 1851. 1 

Eds. of Free Trader — Don't you want to come to California? Don't 
you want to get rich? Do not the piles which we are taking out ex- 
cite your acquisitiveness? Well, why don't you come? You read the 
papers and of course see the accounts of the new diggings daily dis- 
covered. And you occasionally see men returning with piles, and 
why can't you get it if they can? Let me see. 

The gold is here for a certainty; for a certainty new mines are 
found, and as certainly the papers report it; men go home, too, with 

O, aye, it takes a confounded sight of labor and prison fare to 
look for the placers, and when you get your finger on it, the placer 
is displaced like the flea's whereabouts and — what amount actually 
do men bring home? You hear amounts variously estimated; but 
do you know — do they show you their piles? I have been sometimes 
amused with reports from your scandal-loving country of the sums 
which various men have the reputation of bringing home, when it 
leaks out here not unfrequently that for thousands you should read 
hundreds. Good Lord — why, I could show you on paper that I am 
worth from twenty to forty thousand dollars; but if I should show 
you the gold it might sink to tens. Paper currency is unknown in any 
other way only as State, county and city script, and that at about 
sixty per cent, discount — but calculating a man's wealth here on 
paper generally proves at greater discount than city script. 

We hope, however, that this fact will not be made known, and 
that the gold fever will continue; for we have lots of Indians to kill 
off and about six hundred miles of mountains to settle, and con- 
fidently expect an increase of at least twenty thousand souls to our 
population, 2 besides the usual mode of peopling new territories. 

If you come, don't bring any money; for what is the use when you 
can shovel it up? It will plague you to keep it when you do — that I 

i Free Trader, May 17, 1851. 

2 The influx of 1851 was well over twenty thousand, but less than that of each of the two 
preceding years. Bancroft, History of California, VII, 696. Cf. p. 


know to be a fact from experience. If you are determined to come, 
let me give you a few words of advice, so that you can pass muster 
and be respectable among us. 

First, drink brandy; then learn to play at monte; become a mem- 
ber of some church; rob somebody to get your hand in; fill your 
pockets with bogus dollars; then slope 3 between two days, and you 
will be prepared to go into business immediately on your arrival 
without preliminary practice; and you no doubt will be appointed 
a judge or elected to some office. If you are not, stick to gambling 
till your turn comes. If you want some inferior business, you can 
get a silent partner — sometimes called a sleeping partner, though 
not always silent — and open a cigar store; and then with what you 
can steal, you will do something in the diggings. I have only to add 
that you will be in a great country, among a great people, and be 
one of us. 

For the last four months I have been a citizen of San Francisco. 
As I am a candidate for no office under the sun of California, I can 
safely say that my interests are not exclusively identified with those 
of the dear people, but no doubt would be with a fat office in per- 
spective. As it is, I can't well do any other way than tell you the 

Well, then, San Francisco is a town such as I never saw before. 
There is a vast amount of intellect, science, and go-ahead-activeness 
in its mixed population, and I think it must become one of the most 
important cities on the Pacific so long as the mines continue pro- 
ductive, and they cannot be exhausted in a lifetime. 

The climate is salubrious, and the country along the Coast is 
healthy; but dead animals in these latter days do emit an offensive 
effluvia, in spite of what it might have been in Mr. Bryant's times. 
In sober prose I like San Francisco and the seacoast, and if my 
three especial reasons 4 were fairly domiciled here, I should prefer 
living here to any town east of the Rocky Mountains. 

As for giving you a labored description of the town, I shan't do 
it; for you have read descriptions over and over in the papers, and 
then a bosom friend of mine — ycleped "Old Block," has "done the 
deed," 5 and I hate to write what has been written over and over. 6 

If you will get up a subscription and send me my three reasons, I 
won't come back at all, but will take a trip to the Celestials and give 
you sketches from China — as for that matter I could do it almost 
any day by looking from my office into the street; for we have 

3 Run away. 

4 Wife and two children. 

5 Shakespeare, Macbeth, II, ii, 15. 

6 His "Pen Knife Sketches ... by an Old Block" were appearing in the Courier. San Fran- 
cisco California Daily Courier, June 21, 1851. Cf. Pen-Knife Sketches. 


Chinese men and women as well as natives from all nations and 
some parts of the moon. The latter resemble the people of earth 
very much; only they have tails, wings, and are born with their 
clothes on, and generally fulfill their promises. For a particular de- 
scription of these last, please see my journal when I go there, page 

Our citizens have been lately gratified with the sight of about a 
dozen Japanese who were picked up at sea in a shipwrecked condi- 
tion, far from their native land, by an American ship and brought to 
this port. You know that Japan has been a sealed country to the 
world and but little is known of its customs. They resemble some- 
what in appearance the Chinese; but there is a marked difference, 
and it is hoped their advent among us may lead to an intercourse 
with their nation. I was walking along Long Wharf, one of the prin- 
cipal thoroughfares of our city, on Sunday, in company with a num- 
ber of ladies and gentlemen, when we met them promenading. We 
mutually stopped to gaze at each other; the ladies especially at- 
tracted their attention, and they apparently seemed unable to de- 
termine to what class of humanity the countrywomen belonged, and, 
like my Indians last summer, appeared to ask each other, "What 
things those animals were?" — They appear to be an inquisitive but 
inoffensive race. They are treated with kindness and attention. 

Had you received the first part of my journal 7 you would have 
learned of my first introduction to a somewhat remarkable man, 
Colonel Joseph S. Watkins, formerly of Virginia. In our trying trans- 
it across the plains, we became well acquainted with and formed a 
warm friendship for each other, and among the thousand petty 
annoyances of the journey calculated to engender ill-feeling, we had 
a mutual sympathy which an ignorant, agitatious, and self-willed 
class of our companions could not understand nor appreciate. I 
could give you many anecdotes of his goodness of heart and great- 
ness of soul, and you would come to the conclusion that he is of the 
"salt of the earth," with but few like him. We parted on our arrival 
in the Valley, though with the expectation of soon meeting again; 
but this was prevented by a strange course of events, an interesting 
history in itself, and until within a few days we lost sight of each 
other. About three weeks ago I put a notice in the Pacific News in- 
quiring for him. 8 This happily reached him in the southern mines, 
and he immediately addressed a letter to me, and two days ago I 
was gratified with a visit from him. A man who was an intimate 
friend of Jefferson and Marshall, who for a term of twenty-one years 
occupied a prominent station in the councils of Virginia, a man of 
large scientific and literary acquirements and of great experience in 
life, could not fail to be a useful and amusing companion, and al- 

■ Cf. p. 19. 

8 Delano ran a business card in the San Francisco Pacific News, March 11-21, 1851. 


though he has not been successful as a millionaire, he is extensively 
known in California, respected for his talents, and beloved for his 

The attention of Californians is beginning to be turned to quartz 
mining extensively, and so far as present prospects are concerned, it 
promises more certain return than any other mode of working gold. 
I do not choose to speak of it more particularly now, as much is ex- 
perimental; but thus far it has been generally successful. I have 
given my views upon the subject for publication to a gentleman 
from New York, both geologically and practically, and will not 
trouble you by a repetition. 

Rich veins have been discovered, and I have traced one person- 
ally 150 miles. The only way these can be successfully worked is 
by the concentration of capital; individual labor can do but little. 

My opinion is that here is the fountainhead of all the gold and 
that this species of mining will form for a hundred years to come 
the legitimate mining, and one of the principal sources of wealth, 
of California. Extraordinary developments have been made, and I 
may speak more particularly hereafter. I will, however, mention 
that it will cost from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars to open a 
mine and get it ready for practical mining, and science is necessary 
to be successful. 

I forget what your laws and customs are at home. I know only 
the customs of the Pacific. Will you please inform me whether my 
wife is married again or not? If a man dines out here, he may find 
himself turned out of house and home when he comes back to tea, 
and is met in the door by the other husband to tell him his bread and 
butter "isn't as it used to was." 

A lady came here from the States to join her husband, who was at 
work in the mines. On her arrival, he dispatched a friend with funds 
to pay expenses and bring her up to his mountain home. Not hear- 
ing from them, "he went down into Egypt" 9 and found his friend 
married to his wife, and keeping house together. Like a sensible 
man, however, he went back to the mines and "tended tu what he 
was duin." 

I could give you a list of the latest robberies and murders, but you 
will get enough by the papers which I send you by the steamers 

I saw Keefer and Olmstead 10 a short time since — well and doing 
well. I see by a paper that Jesse Green has returned safe, for which 
I heartily rejoice; for a better man never crossed the plains, nor one 
whose success would give me more pleasure. I hope to take him by 

9 Genesis xlii: 2. 

10 John Olmstead, of Ottawa. He had a store at Placerville in December, 1849. Free 
Trader, February 23, 1850. 


the hand next fall. I have not seen George Green. I heard he was 
hard at work, but with what success I did not learn. Direct all com- 
munications to me here. 

Yours truly, 

A. Delano. 


Grass Valley, Nevada County, June 11, 1851. 1 

Once more in the mountains — once more among the everlasting 
hills of California, the land of circumstance and of adventure. How 
truly may it be said that "no man knoweth what the morrow may 
bring forth." 2 When I last descended from the snow-capped peaks 
of the Snowy Mountains, 3 1 thought that it was for the last time and 
that that my weary feet would no more climb their dizzy heights, 
nor my tongue again be parched by burning thirst. But, alas, a life 
of ease is not for me, and, until the sun of life goes down, I may 
hardly hope for rest. Yet "hope on, hope ever," and in California 
even hope for heaven. The desire for wealth brought me here, and 
the weary search for gold hath made misery often my companion; yet 
although I have not been completely successful and have run many 
risks, I am not discouraged and will still plod on. Trade in the city 
became dull and fluctuating, and an opportunity occurring of sell- 
ing out to advantage, it could not be neglected, for here you must go 

1 True Delta, July 23, 1851. 2 Cf. James iv: 14. 

3 Sierra Nevada. 


with the current. Stemming it is destruction; so I closed for the time 
my "merchandise." About the same time the subject of quartz min- 
ing began to attract attention and my mining experience was sought. 
I examined a vein at Grass Valley, between Yuba and Bear rivers, 
made a favorable report, backed up by an offer to invest all I pos- 
sessed in the world, and became a party in a quartz mining com- 
pany. And this species of mining will be the text of my sermon. 

Through the whole extent of the California mountains veins of 
quartz extend which have been found to contain gold in veins, in 
many instances visible to the naked eye, and which, upon assay, are 
found to yield astonishing results. It is believed generally that here 
is the matrix of gold and that from this source the gold of the 
gulches and streams comes by the decomposition of the rock as well 
as by being thrown out by volcanic force; and by the action of the 
elements it slides down to where it is found on the banks of streams 
and in low grounds. It is found in the rock from the finest particles, 
invisible to the naked eye, to that of spangles and in lumps such as 
are picked up in the gulch and river diggings. 

In large masses of rock you trace a regular vein, generally in 
small spangles but sometimes in decayed or porous portions. It pre- 
sents many fantastic shapes; I have seen it assume the shape of a 
tree, then of leaves, a heart, a human face, &c, &c. These veins of 
quartz vary in thickness from that of a knife-blade to three feet, and 
a few score feet may exhibit these changes; but twelve to eighteen 
inches may be a kind of maximum. They seem to have been forced 
up through strata of slate or of gray granite, which often present an 
appearance of decomposition. Sometimes they are in proximity 
with hornblende. Occasionally the quartz is found decomposed, and 
in its stead is a rich gravel and earth which yields from ten cents to 
five, ten, even fifty dollars to the pan. Gold Tunnel, at Nevada City, 
is of this character. 

By the politeness of G. S. McMakin, Esq., one of the proprietors 
of that rich mine, I was enabled to make a thorough inspection of 
their tunnel. It lays in a small ravine worn by water and is, perhaps, 
sixty feet above the bed of Deer Creek, which flows at its base. In 
sinking a shaft for the purpose of coyote digging in October last, 
they struck the vein of quartz which was mostly decomposed, and 
in December they commenced a regular tunnel to follow the vein. 
The vein is of a reddish or iron brown, but all the earth which is 
excavated appears to be extremely rich. — Mr. McMakin took about 
half a pound of dirt indiscriminately in a pint cup from the side of 
the mine in my presence, and without using much care in washing, 
it had fifty cents, and in 1 15-16 of dirt in another instance he found 
two dollars and eighty cents. They have followed the vein an hun- 
dred and ten feet, and it is now about three feet thick, with a dip of 
forty-five degrees to the east. The base and surrounding rock is 


gray granite, partially decomposed. Occasionally a large boulder 
is found through which they blast. They are following the vein, not 
downward, but horizontally. There are other tunnels at Nevada 
City, but none so rich as this have been discovered, and in some the 
vein has not been struck. 

At Grass Valley, five miles below Nevada City, are probably the 
most extensive quartz mining operations that exist at this moment 
in California. Late last fall a layer of quartz was struck in sinking a 
shaft for coyote digging on the top of a hill, since called Gold Hill, 
which was found to contain a large deposit of gold. The quartz here 
seems to lay in slabs and boulders as if it had been raised and a mass 
of earth, falling in, filled the cavity, leaving the quartz near the sur- 
face; and consequently, although there is a large quantity of ore, 
there is not a regular vein, unless at a greater depth than it has been 
prospected. Across a small ravine south, and perhaps eighty rods 
distant from Gold Hill, is Massachusetts Hill, where the Sierra Ne- 
vada Quartz Mining Company is located. 4 

On this hill the last-named company are in active operation and 
are opening their mine scientifically so that it may be worked for 
years. Here they struck a well-defined vein four inches thick and 
which increased in richness and thickness as they proceeded down, 
when at the depth of sixty feet the vein was eighteen inches thick, 
the dip being to the east at an angle of forty-five degrees. At this 
depth they came to water, but the vein can be followed north and 
south above the water. They then commenced a tunnel at the base 
of the hill about an hundred and fifty feet below its apex, and had 
proceeded only twenty feet when they struck what is supposed to 
be a lateral vein twelve inches thick of the same character of earth 
as at Gold Tunnel at Nevada City. They are continuing the tunnel 
through this vein in the direction of the vein which they must reach 
within two hundred feet. 

You may judge something of the character of the vein when I tell 
you that they employed from five to twenty men at an expense of 
five dollars per day in prospecting — have dug at least four hundred 
feet, and probably nine tenths of the labor in opening the mine has 
been unproductive of revenue; yet they have paid all expenses of 
labor, board and tools, and acquisition of working territory from 
the mine itself, by crushing pieces of quartz by hand in a mortar and 
washing without quicksilver, and have at this moment ten thousand 
dollars' worth of rock and rich earth raised (estimating it at thirty 
dollars per ton, the price paid at the mills) clear of expense. 

The mines in that vicinity do not sell their richest specimens to 
the crushing mills. It is only the refuse rock or that in which gold is 
not visible to the naked eye. The rich specimens the miners crush 
themselves by hand, and these yield one to ten dollars, and even 

4 Delano was a member of this company. 


two ounces to the pound. Indeed, I have one piece weighing nine 
ounces avoirdupois which, by estimating its specific gravity, con- 
tains three ounces of gold. 

I will at some convenient opportunity send you a specimen. One 
of the specimens weighing fourteen pounds, from this vein, contain- 
ing over six hundred dollars, was sold to go to the World's Fair, 5 
after being shown in New York. A year ago there was but a single 
shanty at Grass Valley; now there are two hundred wood houses, 
good hotels, stores, a sawmill, four steam crushing mills in opera- 
tion, and four more in active progress of erection, and vast quanti- 
ties of rock piled up ready for use. New veins, or rather new open- 
ings of the vein, are continually made, and it appears to be uni- 
formly rich as a general thing, though some placers are richer than 
others. The mills in operation are too light and too imperfect. They 
should be not less than twenty horsepower, with stampers weighing 
two hundred and fifty to five hundred each. Those now operating 
are of from ten to twelve horsepower engines, with stampers weigh- 
ing about one hundred pounds, though heavy mills are being 
erected. One by Walsh, Esq., is of sixty horsepower and no doubt 
will be effective. But the greatest difficulty is in saving the gold; not 
more than one fifth is extracted or saved. The general average saved 
by the mills is five cents to the pound in the refuse rock. Repeated 
experiments have shown that four fifths of the gold is lost and that 
there is much more in the quartz which is passed off at the mill than 
is saved. This subject is occupying the attention of scientific men 
here, and I hope it will at home. But a small part will amalgamate 
with quicksilver; if fire is applied, no flux is known which may be 
reduced to extensive practical use, and if dissolved by acids, the 
expense of the latter absorbs all the profits. A new era in gold-dig- 
ging seems to have arisen. Although surface digging is still carried 
on with its usual labor and disappointments, with its very few 
successful ones, the mode of washing the earth has steadily im- 
proved and dirt that at first would not be touched with the pan is 
often made very profitable with the sluice. But the developments 
made in the quartz veins seem to make it as certain here as mining 
in Peru, Chile or Mexico, where mines have been worked for more 
than two hundred years, and it is thought that capital may be as 
safely invested in this species of mining as in railroad, factory or 
bank stock, in shipping, farming or merchandise. But this requires 
capital to commence with. Individual labor and poor machinery 
amounts to nothing and must, in general, prove a failure. To open 
a mine properly it may cost twenty thousand dollars, though in some 
instances by good luck, two thousand dollars may strike the vein; 
and then to purchase the requisite machinery thirty to forty thou- 
sand dollars more may be required before a dollar is returned, but 

5 The first international exhibition, at the Crystal Palace, London, 1851. 


by an expense of two or three thousand dollars a vein may be pros- 
pected and a degree of certainty arrived at which will justify a 
farther expenditure. I append a calculation predicated upon what is 
actually done at some of the mines at Grass Valley. I will take a 
twelve-horsepower engine with poor crushers and imperfect ma- 
chinery and exorbitant wages as a basis : 

10 tons crushed in 24 hours is 20,000 lbs. 

Yield per pound 5c. 

Total per day $1,000.00 

20 men at $10 per day, men 

boarding themselves $200 

Wear and tear and extras 100 — 300.00 

Profit $ 700.00 

One year, say days 300 


Leaving a profit of two hundred and ten thousand dollars per 
year. Men can be hired at from three to five dollars per day; and 
with proper machinery thirty and forty tons of rock can be crushed 
as well as ten, which, of course, increases your profits. Now, instead 
of estimating the yield at five cents make it one half or two and one 
half cents, and you will find you are doing rather a snug cash busi- 
ness; and then hit upon some method of saving all the gold, and 
instead of two and one half cents to the pound, you will have from 
fifteen to twenty-five cents at least. 

God forbid that I should mislead anyone on this subject. I have 
suffered too much myself to wish even a dog to endure what I have, 
but I desire to give my countrymen the truth and the benefit of my 
experience without my hardships. It is an impression gaining favor 
here that quartz mining will become a legitimate business of Cali- 
fornia as much as woolgrowing in the Western States, and I confess 
that I am compelled to adopt that opinion from what I have seen. I 
have personally traced this vein by outcrops and excavations more 
than a hundred and fifty miles, and feel confident of its extent. It 
passes through the country in a southeast and northwest direction, 
following the main direction of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and 
the general dip is to the east at an angle of forty-five degrees. There 
are evidences of silver in quantities, but I defer that subject until my 
information is more definite, although I have seen beautiful speci- 
mens of pure metal that had been melted like the lumps of gold 
which we find. 


The awful fire at San Francisco has beggared hundreds and 
ruined thousands. 1, too, come in for my share of loss and at pres- 
ent can only say as the fellow did when the saddle turned and threw 

him into the mud, "just like my d d luck." 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano. 

6 This was the fifth "great fire." Soule et al., Annals, 329. 


San Francisco, June 13, 1851. 1 

Friends Osman — I was most agreeably surprised by a visit from 
my friend Dr. Hall, who is on his way home. If I can rejoice at the 
success of any man, it is at his, for one of a better heart or more 
moral honesty I never met. He is one who returns unscathed by the 
vices of California and is the same here as at home. He is among 
those who are entitled to my best regards, and I cordially hope that 
his last days may be prosperous and happy. 

I wish you would tell McNeil to write me, for in our long sojourn 
together, in the hour of trial and amid danger and difficulty, I 
learned to appreciate his kindness and good will. Oh! how I should 
love to sit down with some of those old returned Californians and 
while away an hour or two in talking over our travels along the 
Nemahas, the Platte, the plains, the desert, the canons, and the 
mountains. I could almost come on purpose to see Captain George 
Green and the brave old pioneer, his father, and other good men 
and true who suffered the perils of that arduous trip. You see my 
heart is expanding towards them, and I can't help giving utterance 
to my feelings. 

As your country is great for reports, I have been amused — not 
offended — at one I have recently heard respecting myself and to 
this effect, "that Delano provided nothing for his family when he 
left home, that he had sent them nothing since he has been here, and 
that he traveled across the plains with another woman." As to the 
first two, it may spoil a good story when I refer the lovers of the 
dark side to my own family for the truth of the two first counts, and 
for the third, I simply ask those who traveled in our train to state 
the facts. As for women, I did save the life of one here in San Fran- 
cisco, and gave her shelter and protection after the fire for two or 
three days, until she got a situation with Captain Sutter's family at 
one thousand dollars a year; and could you hear her story, it would 
be that of respect, and that even here a man may do a good deed 

1 Free Trader, August 9, 1851. 


which he may not blush to own. Except this one, who by circum- 
stances was thrown upon my protection by a course of events — an 
interesting tale of itself — when a man should blush not to do as I 
did, and when I was encouraged by pious and good people of both 
sexes, there are not three other females in California that even know 
my name; and I do not blush, nor need any of my friends blush for 
any act of mine since I have been in this God-forsaken land, nor 
will they have occasion to. I feel that it is scarcely necessary for me 
to speak a word in defense of myself, and I drop the subject. 

We are in the midst of certainly a moral and nearly a political 
revolution. The outrages upon the order-loving people have been so 
great — so many murders, robberies, and incendiary conflagrations 
have been committed, not only here but throughout California, and 
so wretchedly has the law been administered, that the people have 
arisen in their might to protect themselves. 

Since the great fire, eight different palpable attempts have been 
made to fire the city. It is no longer safe to walk the streets after 
dark unarmed, and we do not know when we lay down at night but 
that before the morning sun our dwellings may be burnt to ashes. 
The magistrates and police cannot execute the laws if they would. 
Lawyers are found who will make the technicalities and subtleties of 
the law subservient to the horde of villains who are in our midst, to 
screen them from justice. The penal colonies of Great Britain are 
emptying their hordes of convicts upon our shores, and every arrival 
from Sydney swells the number by hundreds. A mass meeting was 
held on the Plaza yesterday — another today, and another will be 
held tomorrow, to adopt some measures to protect ourselves and 
check the crime that is carrying murder and desolation to our citi- 
zens in their dwellings. This is no fancy sketch. Ask any man who 
is returning from California — he will attest its truth. 

A man was caught in the act of setting fire to the city a few days 
ago. He is in the hands of the law and will escape. 2 Night before last 
a man was caught with a safe which he had stolen. He was seized, 
tried by the citizens fairly and impartially, found guilty, and hung 
before daylight. 3 

There are thousands upon the Plaza today, and with a small ex- 
ception, the feeling of self-defense was the ruling one. A few at- 
tempted to stem the popular current, and a gang of bullies and 
rowdies attempted to put down the movement on the part of the 
people, and at one time there were indications of a severe fight. But 
the people triumphed — resolutions passed which amounted to little 

2 On June 3, 1851, Benjamin Lewis underwent a preliminary examination on the charge 
of arson; his indictment was twice quashed for "defects" and he was released. Soule et al., 
Annals, 340-341. 

3 On June 10 John Jenkins stole a safe from a store on Long Wharf. At midnight the 
Vigilance Committee hanged him. Ibid., 570. 


else than revolution, and tomorrow another mass meeting is to be 

All men regret that the exigencies of the case demand the stormy 
interposition of the people to punish crime, but lamentable as it is, 
the case is necessary. No man has ever been legally executed for 
murder in San Francisco, and but two in the State, 4 out of the hun- 
dreds committed. In one of the cases alluded to it was for a cool 
unprovoked murder of an influential citizen. The culprit was con- 
demned to be hung, but the Governor (McDougal) gave him a re- 
spite and then a full pardon, but the people broke into the jail and 
executed the just sentence themselves. 5 Some forty persons have 
been murdered here since last fall, and every murderer has escaped. 
You can form but little idea of the actual state of things, but Dr. 
Hall can tell you more than I have time to write. 

The city is nearly rebuilt since the fire. I am once more in my old 
office — rather, in a new one, where the old one stood. I find my 
actual loss by the fire was a little over twelve hundred dollars, but 
as luck would have it, it didn't break me. It came a little hard, as it 
was money loaned out. — Quartz mining is still good and will be for 

Business, I mean merchandising, is good for nothing. Goods are 
lower than in New York — even in the mines it does not pay as a 
general thing. Men dare not employ capital, and there is neither 
confidence nor credit. 

I am writing out my journal as I get leisure, and although I have 
not determined to publish it, I may conclude to do so eventually. 6 

After leaving the Humboldt we were in a country but little 
known, and almost every day presented something new and strange. 
I saw in a number of the Free Trader that a regular trade had 
sprung up between San Francisco and Sydney in importing women 
who are sold at public auction. This is certainly news to us. No such 
thing has happened since I have been a resident of the city, and all 
I can learn about it is that about a year ago some females were 
brought from Sydney, and by their own consent their time was sold 
by the Captain long enough to pay their passage. I send you a 

4 Bancroft lists fifteen executions in the State during the first nine months of its existence, 
but which, if any, were strictly legal is not now discoverable. Popular Tribunals (2 vols., 
San Francisco, 1887), I, 155-171. 

5 Hamilton McCauley was tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death by the Napa 
court of sessions in March, 1851, the execution to take place on May 15. Governor 
McDougal sent a reprieve, but it failed to arrive in time to prevent the hanging. Ibid., I, 
166-170. John McDougal (1818-1866), second governor of California, was a "gentle- 
manly drunkard, and democratic politician of the order for which California was destined 
to become somewhat unpleasantly notorious." Bancroft, History of California, VI, 645. 

6 It was published in part in the Free Trader, February 8-9, 1850, and in full as Life on 
the Plains and Among the Diggings, 1854. Cf. p. 19. 


Courier (Daily) which contains a Pen Knife Whittling — the last 
number. 7 — I am writing hurriedly, as you perceive. 

I can't tell when I shall come home. Perhaps your newsmongers 
will have me married again soon, and then you know I shall not 
dare come. There are many of your citizens for whom I entertain 
warm feelings of friendship, and I hope to take them by the hand 
within a year. — I'm growing garrulous and will close. 

Truly yours, 

A. Delano 

7 The San Francisco California Daily Courier, June 21, 1851, carried "Pen Knife Sketches 
— 2d Series, No. 5, By an Old Block." But earlier numbers are unavailable. 


Grass Valley, Sierra Nevada Quartz Mines, 

June 29, 1851. 1 

Climate, &c. — I'm going to give a lecture. Please be seated and 
attend respectfully to the speaker. I am about to make some experi- 
ments, my dear hearers (or readers), for your edification, and you 
will of course follow my directions in order that your understanding 
may be properly enlightened with regard to the subject before us. 
Climate, then, the first matter for our consideration, is bounded on 
the West by Sacramento City. Wheugh! who ever heard of climate 
being a geographical discovery before? — attention! then — no inter- 
ruption. We do up things in California to suit ourselves, and the 
Lord knows some of 'em are antagonistic to all natural and human 
laws. If we freeze in San Francisco and sweat in the Valley of the 
Sacramento, it is our privilege to do so. I am now in the sweat re- 
gion and am about giving you its boundaries according to my dis- 
coveries. Climate, then, is bounded on the North by the Cascade 
and Pit River Mountains; on the East by Nevada City, Auburn, and 
that line of hills; on the South by Mount Diablo, and how much 
further I can't tell, as I have only been to the Devil — I meant the 
Devil's Mountain. It has been a mooted point whether the sun is 
hot or cold, but it is generally allowed that the sun makes the climate 
warm. In California there are two causes — first, big fires under- 
ground — second, the sun overhead — and by climbing Mount Di- 
ablo just beyond Sacramento City in a hot day, you will see that the 
sun is a red-hot mass that sends his burning rays hizzing and fizzing 
from above to meet the steam and internal heat of the fires under 
the Valley of the Sacramento, so that the climate here is between 
two fires, and would you experiment on the warmth of this climate? 

1 True Delta, August 6, 1851. 


Well, take off your coat — "good" — now your vest — "very well" — 
slip off your pants — "ridiculous" — off with your shirt — "git out" — 
why, the natives do it here — now go to a baker's oven just as he is 
putting in his bread, and crawl in, and you'll not only be done 
brown but get a pretty correct idea of the climate about these days 
in this part of California. At this blessed moment I am setting in my 
nice log cabin breathing the hot but pure mountain air of this 
pleasant location, divested of all covering except shirt and pants and 
I wish they were off — and my handkerchief is doing duty manfully, 
but hang me if it can dry up the streams that course o'er my brows. 

Now for the "and so forth." The determination of the people in 
the cities to protect themselves against the lawless gangs of des- 
perados who are bringing ruin upon the whole country is extending 
itself to the mining districts. Sensible that such felons will take 
refuge in the mines when an asylum is no longer afforded them in 
the cities, the miners are associating for the purpose of punishing 
crime, and Vigilance Committees are organizing. One was formed 
here last night, and we are ready to pay our respects to all scoundrels 
who may be inclined to pay us a visit. Repugnant as this course is 
to Americans who are brought up in the school of law and order, 
there is no other way to save our lives and to protect our property, 
for the technicalities of the law have been perverted to screen the 
guilty and protect them in their career of crime so long that nothing 
is left but a resolution in fact to put the law into the hands of the 
people to protect themselves. You will learn by the public prints the 
infamous use made of the pardoning power by Governor McDougal 
in granting a full and free pardon to a murderer, a wanton and de- 
liberate murderer. 2 It is but a sample of the manner in which the 
law has been administered by those entrusted with its execution. 

I am cognizant of all the transactions of the people at San Fran- 
cisco, having taken an active part in some of the public meetings 
there; yet I leave a description of them to others. I am now at work 
on my claim in the mountains. The condition of things is lamentable 
in other ways than the disorders of judicial proceedings. Business 
is nearly at a stand. By the late fires thousands are completely 
ruined and thrown out of employment. 3 Those who can stand the 
sun and severe labor go to the mines, but there are many, very 
many, who are unused to labor and although they may have the 
will, do not possess the strength and are in vain seeking employ- 
ment. At this time the best business and literary talent can be em- 
ployed in San Francisco for their board. Indeed, I know men of 
ability, of honesty, and of good morals, who could not even get 
that, and have not money either to live on or to get out of town. I 

2 Cf. p. 119. 

3 The sixth "great fire" occurred June 22, 1851. Soule et ai, Annals, 345. 


never wanted to be rich so much in my life as since the fire. Rich, 
humph! Do you know that Colonel Grant has become a prophet? 
He had the impudence to declare to Dr. Morse 4 the other day that 
I never would be rich. The only thing I care about the prophecy is 
it's truth. Well, I can't steal, and if I can't get rich without, I shall 
enjoy the company of two Californians who can 

"Teach me to feel another's woe," 5 

and Grant re-Morse for my sins of omission — eh, Colonel ? 

Let's see, where was I? O, talking about business. It is but little 
better in the mines than in the cities. Goods and provisions are 
abundant and cheap, affording but little profit. So many have rushed 
into trade that profits are cut down to little more than a living, and 
although mining is uncertain, yet at this moment it is, in my opin- 
ion, the surest business of the country. Agriculture is attended to, 
and where land can be irrigated very good crops are raised. I think 
there will be potatoes enough raised very nearly to supply the de- 

Many places are found in the mountains — the foothills — which 
can be cultivated, for the mountain streams afford the means of 
irrigation. One of our company has 160 acres enclosed, and we are 
eating lettuce and radishes of his raising, and his potatoes are doing 
well. Indian corn has a bilious look, but barley and wheat thrive 
well. I think it possible to raise potatoes enough in the mountains 
to supply the miners. If this is ever done, it will cut off one great 
item of trade below. 

A general meeting of quartz miners is called to be held at Sacra- 
mento City on the 2d of July, for the purpose of agreeing on some 
general regulations respecting the amount of territory which a man 
may hold. This call is not responded to by all of the quartz dis- 
tricts. In some the laws are just and liberal, founded upon equity, 
and the utmost harmony reigns, as is the case here. It is thought 
that each district can make its own laws, which will apply better to 
its own locality than any general law. Here, the laws are made and 
allow a man to hold by preemption one hundred square feet of 
quartz ground, but he may purchase and hold for the purpose of 
running machinery, or for working actually, any number of claims 
within reason. To change this law might do much injustice to those 
who have made improvements or who have bought claims for the 
purpose of working crushing mills, and as all are satisfied now, our 

4 Dr. John Frederick Morse (1815-1874), physician, editor of the Sacramento Union, and 
local historian. San Francisco Aha California, December 31, 1874. 

5 Pope, The Universal Prayer. 

6 The miners met and on July 3 passed a resolution limiting each claim on "the lead" to 
three hundred feet for the claimant and 150 feet for each partner. Sacramento Union, 
July 4, 1851. 


people have determined to let well enough alone and not go into 
convention. This community is an orderly, peaceable and quiet one. 
There are seven crushing mills in operation, and many people at 
work. There are many scientific, literary and well-educated gentle- 
men among them, and several families are located here. We have a 
daily stage and mail passing through from Sacramento City to 
Nevada City, although a year ago a road was not opened, and the 
Indians were killing and driving off the whites. And lastly, I want 
to tell you a true story and conclude. Just before the great fire I was 
coming up here on foot; I took a cut across the mountains by a trail 
which led me several miles from any settlement. Passing along a 
dark and deep ravine which was as still and silent as the grave, I 
suddenly came upon the remains of an old camp where had stood a 
solitary and isolated miner's tent. In one corner I saw, partly cov- 
ered with dirt, the remains of a newspaper, and prompted by curi- 
osity I carefully uncovered it and looking at the head, saw that it 
read California True Delta. Comment is unnecessary, but I know 
how that poor fellow felt when he was poring over its pages in that 
lonely spot. 

A. Delano. 


San Francisco, August 1, 185 1. 1 

When the history of California shall be written, after time has 
mellowed the asperities of passing events, the occurrences of the 
present day will form a singular but strange chapter for the perusal 
of the statesman and philanthropist, as well as the bookworm. In a 
country whose people are proverbial for their love of justice and 
order, where the force of early education and of public example has 
tended to the observance of the law for the preservation of order 
and the protection of those rights which belong to free citizens, a 
state of things exists which borders upon anarchy and threatens to 
dissolve the social compact of the community; in fact, they have 
already arrived at the point where strong individual combinations 
are required to protect life and property from organized bands of 
desperadoes and heartless men who have made the existing laws an 
instrument to protect them in crime and high-handed villainy. If 
this state of things existed in a single town, city, or district, the evil 
could be corrected by the law itself, but strange to say the whole 
length and breadth of California is so beset with unprincipled men 
who set law, order and justice alike at defiance, or make use of the 

1 True Delta, September 16, 1851. 


first, by its technicalities, to subvert the others, that a revolution 
has become necessary for the protection of rights and at this mo- 
ment exists in progress throughout the State. On every side is sus- 
picion and distrust of men and authorities. In the cities, as well as 
in the mountain wilds, it is unsafe for men to go unarmed, and par- 
ticularly after nightfall; and even in thoroughfares in the largest 
towns, men are compelled to take the middle of the street, fearful 
that the first man they meet may be an assassin or robber with a 
slung shot or pistol. For a long time this was patiently endured. 
That reverence for existing law which is almost an intuitive feeling 
with Americans endured there, to await its action, in the hope that 
its just administration would rid society of its pests and excres- 
cences; but when at length it was seen that the executive itself, if not 
in actual collusion with crime, pardoned it in its most glaring de- 
formity; that criminals almost universally escaped punishment; that 
in more than two hundred murders in less than a year but a single 
legal execution had taken place in the whole State; 2 that the police 
force was wholly inefficient and sometimes even connected with the 
commission of crime; that witnesses notoriously perjured them- 
selves to screen their companions in guilt and prove an alibi; that 
public officers were guilty of peculation and malfeasence; and that 
for the guilty to be in any event condemned to prison was only 
affording an easy mode to escape punishment by the insecurity of 
the jails and the negligence of the jailors; in short, when it was 
found that under the administration of the law the insecurity of life 
and property increased instead of diminished, the people became 
aroused to a sense of their own wrongs and, convinced that there 
was no other mode of redress, resolved to take the punishment of 
their aggressors into their own hands, not in opposition to law and 
order, but to aid the law to do what of itself it could not do, pro- 
tect the honest part of the community. Not a morning paper ap- 
peared in San Francisco that did not herald the perpetration of 
some robbery or murder the previous night in the city, and it was 
the same from the mines and different parts in the whole country. 
In distant counties, goaded on to desperation by repeated acts of 
violence, the citizens occasionally tumultuously arose and seized 
the perpetrator, when the constituted authorities would interfere, 
generally with success, and the criminal almost invariably would 
escape punishment, till at length it became a byword and reproach 
when an arrest was made: "He will escape by the law." Up to the 
present moment, although within the past year at least forty murders 
have been committed in San Francisco and its immediate vicinity, 
there has never been a legal execution. In several glaring cases the 
perpetrators were admitted to merely nominal bail, without the 
ceremony of incarceration, and were free to continue their assaults 

2Cf. p. 119. 


and depredations. Incendiarism was so common that when the citi- 
zen laid down at night, his papers and valuables, as well as clothes, 
were placed in a situation where they could be seized at a moment's 
warning, and the thought was constant that before daylight should 
appear he might be a houseless, homeless, ruined man. These things 
could no longer be endured. Self-preservation rendered it imperative 
that the first law of nature should be observed, and that unless some 
united effort was made, society must resolve itself into its primitive 
elements and brute force be the only defense against aggression and 
violence. Every ship from the penal colonies of Great Britain only 
added numbers to the English convicts already here, while the vicious 
of all nations seemed by instinct to find a rendezvous on our shores, 
so that California contained hordes of the most accomplished vil- 
lains who had passed through every grade of crime and were pre- 
pared to practice their infernal arts upon the honest and industrious 
part of the community at the moment of their arrival. Under this 
state of things an association was organized in San Francisco, com- 
posed of its best and most prominent citizens, which soon swelled 
to a thousand, encouraged and approved by nine tenths of the whole 
community, who were determined to bring palpable offenders to 
prompt and speedy justice. 

Their first act was to take into custody a thief who was caught in 
the act of stealing a safe. He was fairly tried before a jury immedi- 
ately summoned, full proof of guilt was adduced, and without noise 
or parade he was taken to the plaza about midnight and hung on 
the piazza of the Adobe. 3 

The second day after, a public meeting was called at which thou- 
sands of citizens were assembled, who, with but one single dissent- 
ing voice (from a lawyer), ratified by vote the acts of the Vigilance 
Committee (as it was called). 4 

A second meeting took place the following day at which a series 
of resolutions were introduced, the object of which was to sustain 
the Committee in purifying the city from the pest of society and 
censuring the uncertain and tardy administration of justice by the 
officers of the law. An attempt was made to prevent the passage of 
these resolutions by a prominent member of the Legislature, backed 
up by a gang of rowdies and gamblers whom he had rallied around 
him and who endeavored to interfere with the meeting by violent 
and unfair means. But the resolutions passed by overwhelming 
acclamation. 5 — A revolution had in fact taken place. 

3 This was the Jenkins affair. Cf. p. 118. The "Adobe" was the Custom House on the 
northwest corner of Portsmouth Plaza. Soule et al., Annals, 255, 343, 571. 

4 At the meeting, held June 11, H. K. W. Clarke "almost alone" protested against the 
Committee's actions. San Francisco Alta California, June 12, 1851. 

5 On June 12 David C. Broderick (1820-1859), President of the State Senate (later U. S. 
Senator from California), effectively led the opposition to the Committee, but its actions 
were finally endorsed the next day. Ibid., June 13-14, 1851; "Broderick," Dictionary of 
American Biography. 


The Vigilance Committee were looked upon as the true purifiers 
of society, instead of the courts; yet in no case did the former im- 
pede the acts of the latter in its administration of justice; its only 
aim was to punish speedily those who were not secured by the 
police, without going through with the technicalities of the law, its 
insecurity and uncertainty; and yet they punished no criminal with- 
out a fair trial, without full and positive proof of guilt. The effect of 
this association was speedily felt. After the execution of Jenkins, 
numbers of known thieves and burglars left the city, and the Re- 
corder's dock, instead of being filled every morning with criminals, 
fell off at once to a few cases of drunkenness and disorderly con- 
duct. Determined to effect a thorough renovation, the Committee 
gave notice to notorious villains to leave the city in five days, and 
when they refused to obey, they were seized and placed in durance 
until they could be sent out of the country. Ships from the penal 
colonies were boarded and the characters of the passengers enquired 
into, and when they were satisfactorily proven to be convicts, they 
were not suffered to land, but compelled to return in the same vessel 
which brought them out. As a matter course there was opposition 
to the measures of the Vigilance Committee. The constituted au- 
thorities, sworn to administer the law (which, even if willing, they 
had been unable to do), looked upon these acts of the Committee 
as a breach of the law; the gamblers, thieves, their aiders and abet- 
tors, their counselors, who were deriving a revenue in shielding 
them from justice, weak men who had but little at stake or who 
could be influenced by the specious reasoning of those directly 
interested in opposing justice and speedy punishment, formed a 
party in opposition to the people, for the Vigilance Committee was 
now the only recognized organ of the people as a body. — Yet in 
spite of the remonstrances of the Courts, the maligners of those 
interested, and the doubts of the weak, the Committee steadily 
persevered in their work, and a feeling of security began to be felt 
which had not been done for a year and a half before. Even the pul- 
pit came forward to the rescue, and ministers of the gospel were 
heard from the sacred desk to approve of the acts of the Vigilance 
Committee, under the peculiar circumstances of the case. The ex- 
ample of San Francisco was speedily followed in all other towns in 
California, and Vigilance Committees were formed even in the 
mountains, at nearly every extensive digging, and at this moment, 
while the constituted authorities are endeavoring to throw impedi- 
ments in the way of these Committees, thus indirectly encouraging 
the commission of crime which they cannot punish, these associa- 
tions are calmly and steadily pursuing their object, and are restor- 
ing a degree of confidence in the community which has not been 
felt for many months. 

In addition to other benefits, these associations have had the 


effect of instigating the Courts to renewed energy and more prompt 
execution of law and of justice; and when the time shall arrive that 
there is sufficient honesty and power in the Courts to faithfully dis- 
charge their duties in repressing crime and bring offenders to just- 
ice, they will at once resign the right of arrogating to themselves the 
power of punishing the guilty and leave it with those whose duty it 
is to protect the honest against fraud and violence. 

By the indefatigable energy of the Vigilance Committee a notori- 
ous robber was arrested, and the proof was so satisfactory that he 
was condemned to death. Previous to his execution, Stuart con- 
fessed his crimes," and brought to light what had long been sus- 
pected, that organized bands of desperadoes existed,* that certain 
lawyers were engaged to protect them with the chicanery of the law, 
and men of standing were implicated as aiders and abettors in their 
nefarious practices. Upon the execution of Stuart in open day at the 
instance of the committee, the authorities expressed themselves as 
being highly indignant of what they termed an outrage (on what? — 
their authority? — certainly not on justice). A grand jury was im- 
paneled at the instance of the Judge, 7 who charged them that an 
awful outrage had been committed in thus hanging a man contrary 
to law, although the felon had confessed himself guilty of the black- 
est crimes, and they were directed to bring in a true bill of indict- 
ment. The Mayor, 8 too, came out with a proclamation on the sub- 
ject, but the Committee, disregarding those impotent offerings of 
spleen, calmly and deliberately pursued the even tenor of their 
way, 9 determined that justice should overtake the guilty. 

A few days ago at Sacramento City, a young man just from the 
mines, named Wilson, was robbed in open daylight by four despera- 
does who decoyed him to an unfrequented part of the city. An 
alarm was raised, and in half an hour the robbers were in the hands 
of the Vigilance Committee. The authorities interfered and prom- 
ised most solemnly that they should be tried immediately without 
delay, and they were finally given up. It became known the follow- 
ing day that the trial had been postponed four days by the inter- 
ference of the lawyers, when the people assembled and in a deter- 
mined manner called upon the executors of the law to redeem their 
promises, and told them decidedly that unless they proceeded at 
once with the trial, they would take the prisoners themselves. Seeing 
that the people were not to be put off with promises, they then went 

6 James Stuart, arrested for murder and robbery, was hanged by the Vigilance Committee 
on the Market Street Wharf, July 11, 1851. Soule et al, Annals, 314-315, 368, 578-582. 

7 Justice Alexander Campbell (1820-1911) of the county court of sessions. San Francisco 
Alta California, June 13, 1851; Chronicle, July 7, 1911. 

8 Charles J. Brenham (1817-1875). San Francisco Alta California, July 12, 1851; May 
11, 1875; Soule et al, Annals, 735-739. 

9 Gray, Elegy. 


on with the examination according to law, and a week has been 
dragged along, during which one has been sentenced to ten years' 
imprisonment, two to be hung, and one remains to be tried. The 
testimony is positive, as the robbery was witnessed by several in- 
dividuals; yet, had not the Courts been urged on by the people, 
weeks would have, in all probability, been consumed; and it is not 
at all improbable that the villains might have escaped. 10 

And such is the present condition of California. With a beautiful 
climate, abounding in the elements of wealth and of comfort, it is 
on the verge of anarchy from the imbecility of its rulers; and were 
it not for the stern determination of the honest part of community 
to rid the country of its hideous excrescences, it would soon resolve 
into the primitive condition of society when justice and protection 
could only be given by the power of the sword and the will of the 
strong. You will think the picture too highly drawn. You will think 
I am excited. On the contrary, I am of a dispassionate tempera- 
ment, and the portrait may be judged by every public account which 
you receive through the press, as well as at the hands of returning 


A. D. 

*On the 4th of July at Nevada City, a young man whom I had 
known many years told me that he was offered seven hundred dol- 
lars a month to steal mules, horses and cattle. It is needless to say 
that he indignantly refused. 

10 James Wilson was robbed of two hundred dollars on July 9, and the next day William 
Robinson, John Thompson, James Gibson, and Owen Cruthers were indicted. A Vigilance 
Committee was organized, July 11. A jury convicted Robinson, July 15. Robinson, Gib- 
son, and Thompson were sentenced to death, July 20. All three were hanged, August 22. 
Sacramento Union, July 10-12, 16, 21, August 23, 1851. 


Sacramento City, August, 6, 185 1. 1 

Gentlemen: I find my time so much occupied that I shall be un- 
able to continue my correspondence with your paper and of course 
must relinquish all claim on you for sending your paper either to 
me or to my friends on my account. — Since the fire of the 4th of 
May, 2 I have been, like thousands of others, a gentleman loafer, 
living on the glories which were left after the fire had done its worst 
and thinking what I would do if I was a respectable man — that is, 

1 Free Trader, September 27, 1851. 

2 At San Francisco. 


if I had money. As a man's merit is chiefly measured by the fullness 
of his purse, my claim to the high consideration of my countrymen 
is only moderate; but I console myself with the pleasing reflection 
that I care but devilish little about it. I have just read two numbers 
of the Free Trader and a letter written by Mr. Gum to Mr. Keefer, 
by which I see that you are blessed with floods, scarcity of money, 
office seekers, and high life below stairs 3 in various ways. The con- 
clusion that we come to here is that no man knows anything unless 
he has been to California, for we are about fifty years ahead in 
knowledge to you poor deluded mortals at home. When we see you 
chaffering and higgling about a few cents in county operations or a 
half a cent in the price of coal, it looks mighty small, and the con- 
clusion we come to is that you are a picayune people. 

Why, I haven't seen but one copper cent since I have been in this 
country and that gave me the diarrhea. I gave the fellow two bits 
to throw it away. A strange convulsion of nature has recently oc- 
curred here. The mountains have all turned into gold, and instead 
of digging as was formerly the case, and living on pork and bread, 
all you have to do is to load up a wagon with rock and dine on mush 
and milk which fill the gulches. I've written truth so much before 
that I can afford to lie a little now. Well, now in sober earnest, the 
streams are so low that the beds can be worked to advantage, and a 
vast amount of gold will be taken out, more than in any previous 
season. The quartz mining is becoming profitable and begins to be 
worked systematically — $ 1 ,520 was taken from one mine last week. 
— All of our company have sold out except myself. They call the 
trade thirty thousand dollars. I still hold on with the new company 
and am to superintend the mining for three hundred dollars per 
month. I intended to have come home this fall, but as I want fifteen 
barrels of gold, I must wait till spring. I have but little idea of ever 
coming back to live, and somehow the conviction is forced upon my 
imagination that I have a good chance here. But let me tell you one 
thing, boys, if you come here to get rich, you will have to look the 
elephant square in the face in some shape or other. 

I intend to get married next week; I have bribed two sheriffs and 
four auctioneers to buy a woman or two at the first auction sale of 
livestock. Would you like a few dozen? They are of but little account 
here, and although there is quite a rush of them from the States, 
they will find the market glutted and will be compelled to work for 
a living at from fifty to a hundred dollars per month on their arrival. 
They had better stay at home. The squaws have vastly improved the 
Bloomer dresses. From neck to heels they wear only a small grass 
apron. This they say does not impede the free use of their limbs and 
is much more comfortable in hot weather; besides 'tain't half the 

3 Cf. High Life Below Stairs, a popular farce by James Townley, first produced in Lon- 
don, 1759. 


trouble to dress and undress. — Pshaw! what's the use of dictating to 
women what dress they shall wear? They'd do as they please any- 
how. I intend to let all my wives take their own way and thereby 
save myself a hatchelling. 

Murder, robberies and gambling is on the wane. The glorious 
Vigilance Committees are teaching the courts their duty, and order 
is coming out of chaos and confusion. 

Had Milton lived now he would have placed the scene of the 
grand combat in California; at all events his devils would have 
found plenty of ammunition here. 

There is no suffering on the plains this year so far. But '49 and 
'50 will afford a thrilling theme for some future historian. Saw 
Keefer just now — he is doing well, and I am glad of it. He is an 
energetic, industrious man, and has the milk of human kindness in 
his veins. I saw Pete Hoes at Grass Valley last week — is doing noth- 
ing, and probably will not. 4 I haven't got to drinking, stealing or 
gambling yet, but expect to commence in a day or two. 

There is lots of news, but the papers have it all, and letter-writers 
are getting below par. — Money is scarce and taters is fell. 5 

Yours, &c, 

A. Delano. 

4 Peter Hoes, of Ottawa. He was reported to have been in San Francisco in September, 
1849. Free Trader, December 7, 1849. 

5 I.e., fallen in price. 



Grass Valley, August 30, 1851. 1 

Once more a miner — once more a delver in earth in search of its 
hidden treasures. Speculation, merchandise, literary efforts, idling 
and the various employments which men are forced into in this un- 
paralleled country, unparalleled for good and evil, have again set- 
tled into primitive operations, and I am again a mountaineer, my 
castle a cabin, my frills a red shirt, my hope in the mines, and my 
heart with my family beyond the Missouri. But gracious heaven! 
what a change two years has produced. 

When I detailed to you, in my first letters, the toils and hard- 
ships of the miner exemplified in my own experience, I little thought 
that in so brief a space of time such a mighty change would occur. 
Where we then climbed mountains weary and fainting under the 
heavy loads we carried on our backs, where by difficult paths a mule 
brought us our hard and homely fare, where the bare means of ex- 
istence was all we expected — now good roads are opened with daily 
stages running over them from the principal towns in the Valley; 
these roads are lined with comfortable houses for the accommoda- 
tion of travellers, where the luxuries of life may be had in profusion, 
and a vast number of teams loaded with all the necessaries and 
comforts for man are constantly passing. Villages and towns are 
springing up among the hills which exhibit the life and bustle of 
trading towns, and society, though by no means purified of its 
excrescences, begins to assume the form of civilization. Immense 
works are undertaken which might daunt the resolution of wealthy 
capitalists at home, and are carried through with success. In short, 
in every direction you behold a sublime spectacle of the energy and 
indomitable perseverance of a free people, who think and act for 
themselves, and make science and art their slaves in securing the 
talisman of Earth — gold. Rivers and creeks are turned from their 
channels and carried by canals miles along mountains, over hills, 
across gulches, by means of aqueducts, for forty miles or more, thus 
distributing the indispensable element to the miner for separating 
the gold from the earth and opening to man rich deposits which 
could not be worked without water. 

The water of Deer Creek is thus turned and by ditches, troughs 
and hose is carried many miles in various directions, giving em- 
ployment to thousands who without it would be idle; and a canal is 
in progress, to be forty miles in length, which will turn the water of 
Bear River from its bed for a similar purpose, as well as expose its 

1 True Delta, October 8, 1851. 


own rich deposits to the miner. Another gigantic scheme was in 
agitation, and the stock of the company was subscribed. This was 
to turn the Yuba for similar purposes, high in the mountains, with 
a canal of sufficient capacity to float lumber and ice to the Valley. 
It was then projected to continue the canal across the plain to the 
mouth of the American River, thus supplying Sacramento City with 
lumber and ice — the latter an essential article in this fervid climate. 
The engineer assured me the route and work were feasible, except 
about forty or fifty rods, where it would have to pass along a per- 
pendicular canon so high that there were no means of erecting 
works for a flume, and so many difficulties presented themselves at 
that point which seemed to require the whole wealth of California 
to overcome, that the plan was reluctantly abandoned, for the 
present at least. 

Since the discovery of gold in its matrix, which are the quartz 
veins extending apparently through the whole length and breadth 
of the country, a new impulse has been given to the energies of 
Californians. There is at this place perhaps more machinery in 
active operation at this time than at any other point in the State, 
although it is highly probable that many other places are quite as 
rich which still remain undiscovered. At this time there are six 
steam quartz mills and one water mill in operation, and one steam 
mill and another water-crushing mill are in progress of erection. 
Instead of one hill and one vein of quartz, it appears by examina- 
tion that many veins exist in nearly all the hills in this region, and 
this gives such a certainty for continuing operations for a term of 
years — a permanency of business — that the mountain valleys are 
being taken up for farms and cultivated; good buildings are erected 
in the villages, and this hitherto wild and inhospitable mountain 
country is fast assuming the settled condition of the active, bustling, 
yet permanent towns of the iron mountains of Pennsylvania. 

Notwithstanding the horde of villains who throng in our midst, 
the high character of the miners and operatives for intelligence and 
various acquirements still deservedly continues. Among them I have 
for a neighbor and friend, Mr. Frederick M. Catherwood, cele- 
brated the world over as an artist and traveler. 2 You would little 
dream that that modest, quiet man, standing by that puffing, stamp- 
ing, noisy crushing mill, without a particle of ostentation in his 
manner, dressed in a plain, coarse, drab corduroy dreadnought coat 
and pants, with high coarse leather boots reaching above his knees, 
his head covered with a broadbrim California hat and his somewhat 

2 (1799-1856). A native of England, Catherwood was also a railroad promoter. He came 
to San Francisco in 1849, took an active interest in a Panama railroad, and was now 
associated with the Benicia-Marysville railroad survey. He returned to England in 1852 
and was lost on the steamer Pacific, never heard of after leaving Liverpool for New York 
in 1856. Frederick Boase, Modern English Biography (3 vols., London, 1892-1901), I, 
571; Victor W. Von Hagen, Frederick Catherwood, Archt. (New York, 1950), 3, 110-113. 


prominent nose bridging a pair of spectacles, was the artist who 
illustrated the admirable works of Stephens' Petraea and Yucatan, 
with drawings taken on the spot. 3 It is even he, and if you would 
make him blush, why speak to him of his works? He has too much 
modesty to intrude himself on your notice, but if you will draw him 
out you will find him a gentleman as well as an artist, and he is the 
president of his company and one of the proprietors of the mill. 

A year ago there were no inhabitants here. — Occasionally a soli- 
tary miner might be seen resting his weary limbs in the shade of a 
magnificent pine, or while prospecting under the weight of his 
blankets, mining tools and transient supply of pork and hard bread, 
keeping a cautious watch with his hand on his trusty rifle to guard 
against surprise, not knowing but in another instant an arrow from 
the bow of some lurking treacherous savage might terminate his 
toil and earthly career at one and the same moment. Now in this 
immediate vicinity there are probably two thousand men at work, 
with all the comforts of life within their reach, and the only danger 
is from the robber and midnight assassin, and these are now held in 
check. Families are coming in, and although female influence is but 
little felt, still the germ is laid, and the lower mines will soon present 
that feature in the happiness of isolated man. 

I must confess, however, that my former ideas of the purity and 
stern morality of the opposite sex have been somewhat lowered — 
perhaps my ideas have been too exalted — but it too often happens 
here that females who have borne unexceptionable characters at 
home adopt the code of morals of the country and instead of en- 
deavoring to stem the current, float along with it. I am no casuist 
and will not seek for the cause. This sentiment may draw down 
upon me the frowns of my fair countrywomen at home, but I can't 
help it, and as I am no candidate for even a place in their affections, 
I shall take the world as I find it and ask no favors. 

Near us is an Indian ranch filled with dirty, squalid, disgusting 
savages, but as I have given you a picture of Indian life, I will not 
advert to it now. They are peaceable and quiet, and their chief is 
friendly to the whites. The nights are getting cold, and my blankets 
are scarcely sufficient to keep me warm, but the days are hot. 

A. D. 

3 John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852). Known as "the American traveler," he wrote Inci- 
dents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia, Petraea, and the Holy Land (2 vols., New York, 1838) ; 
Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (2 vols., New York, 1841), 
with sixty-five plates by Catherwood; and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan (2 vols., New 
York, 1843). Stephens was also a steamship and railroad executive, associated with a 
transatlantic line, the Hudson River Railroad, and the Panama Railroad; he went with 
Catherwood to South America in 1839 on a confidential mission for President Van Buren. 
Dictionary of American Biography. 


Grass Valley, September 29, 1851. 1 

Science is progressive. The wonderful development of the power 
of steam by Fulton was only the prelude to vast and material im- 
provement, until it has at length reached the perfection exhibited at 
the present day. It is so in mechanics — it is the same in astronomy, 
in geology; it will be so in mining and its modus operandi. On the 
first discovery of gold in the placers of California, the first mode of 
washing was by the pan; then a rough rocker was substituted, which 
was subsequently much improved, and quicksilver introduced. This 
was succeeded by the Long Tom and then by the sluice, by which 
it was found that dirt which would not pay by the pan or rocker 
yielded a handsome profit, and ground which had been passed over 
as worthless was found to contain gold in such quantities that for- 
tunes were made. When the first quartz veins were worked the 
specimens, or those pieces in which gold was visible only, were 
saved, and these were pounded out by hand, until by repeated ex- 
periments and the introduction of machinery it was found that much 
of the rock which had been discarded was really rich and contained 
gold enough to make its extraction a profitable labor. Another dis- 
covery followed, that the dirt in immediate proximity with, and in 
which the quartz was imbedded, was rich, often richer than the 
quartz itself, and it was not until many tons had been thrown away 
or mixed up with valueless dirt that this fact became known, and 

1 True Delta, November 5, 1851. 


now, on visiting a mine, you will see its pile of quartz on one side 
and its pay dirt, as it is termed, on the other. The first mill erected 
here was a small one, by water power, which proved a failure. This 
proceeded from the want of a proper application of the power. The 
next was a twelve-horsepower steam engine, which was abandoned 
or sold out by the company, after involving them in debt. Another 
steam mill of the same power was put into operation and by being 
properly constructed and prudently managed, was successful, and 
this company became the purchasers of the first steam mill, and 
after spending money enough to get it into the right condition and 
making such improvements in the mode of saving gold as were 
suggested by their experiments, this mill was made effective. 

Other mills were then erected, having the benefit of the experi- 
ence of the pioneers, and they have gradually improved one upon 
the other, until all are now able to save much more of the precious 
metal than it was possible to do in the first experiment — enabling 
them to crush poorer rock and at less prices than at first, and make 
a profit to themselves and to the miner. 

Experience develops facts, too, which are of the utmost import- 
ance to those who would engage in gold working. The estimates of 
the capabilities of the machines for crushing have generally been 
too high — where it was confidently asserted that thirty and forty 
tons of rock could be crushed in a day, it is found that ten to fifteen 
is the result, by the power applied, and when the power of the engine 
has been called from twenty-five to thirty-five or forty horse, it may 
go from fifteen to twenty or twenty-five. Sufficient power is abso- 
lutely important, and too much is far preferable to too little. The 
expense of running an hundred-horsepower engine is but a trifle 
more than that of a ten-horse, being chiefly in the amount of fuel 
consumed, and when forty or fifty tons of rock is actually crushed 
in a day, the profit to the mill as well as to the miner is proportion- 
ably great. Poorer rock can be worked, and at a less price, and it is 
a mistaken idea to suppose that all veins are equally auriferous. 
Some will yield little or nothing, others will barely pay, while some 
are decidedly rich, and these varieties not unfrequently occur in the 
same hill, and there is a difference, too, in the same vein, but so far 
as my experience goes, the same vein will give a fair general aver- 
age. While some veins will yield an average of five cents, others will 
give only three, two, or perhaps less, and a mill of forty horsepower 
can make money in working a medium average of rock, while a ten- 
horse would run in debt. Instead of there being a single general vein 
running through the country, with lateral veins, as I once supposed, 
we find several veins often in the same hill, some rich, some of 
medium value, others of little value. An experienced eye will detect 
the quality of the rock at a glance; that is, he can tell with much 
probability whether the vein will pay for working or not, and if 


there is doubt, he can determine by a simple process with much 
certainty, so that money and labor may be saved before large in- 
vestments are made. And in prospecting too, a man accustomed to 
it will find the locality of a ledge by a process he can hardly explain, 
where others would pass it unnoticed. There are mills here which 
are working on three different principles. First — the stampers, by 
steam; second — a small water mill with six stampers on the trip- 
hammer principle, with a flutter wheel about thirty inches in diam- 
eter, in which there is a great waste of power as it is arranged; and 
the third is upon the Chilian system, having four upright crushing 
wheels, the individual weight of which can be made to reach twenty- 
five hundred pounds. This last is nearly ready to run. The two first 
do the work very well; as for the last, if I may be allowed to hazard 
an opinion, it will, I think, be found that it will crush the rock ad- 
mirably, as well perhaps as is desired, but that it cannot crush as 
great an amount in a given time as the stampers. Still this remains 
to be seen. One apparent advantage that it suggests is that the 
amalgamation proceeds with the crushing, and hot water will be 
used, which will expand the quicksilver, giving it a greater surface 
and consequently collecting more gold than by the ordinary amal- 
gamating process. Another water mill is in progress of erection 
about two miles below here by Mr. Kelley, having a water wheel of 
thirty feet in diameter, where there will be not only a great saving 
of power but thousands of dollars a year in the way of wood, engi- 
neers, firemen, wood-choppers, &c, &c. His mill will probably work 
as well as any in this vicinity. 

Experiment has proved that only about one half of the gold is 
now saved by the improvements which have been made since the 
commencement of operations. A small quantity of rock which had 
been worked over was submitted to chemical analysis, when it 
yielded in addition at the rate of ninety dollars per ton, showing that 
an ample field for investigation and experiment is still open to the 
scientific and ingenious. You will frequently hear of rich specimens 
being found in quartz. This is so, but do not confound this with the 
average yield. — All paying veins will occasionally produce rich 
specimens, and although it is desirable to see gold visible to the 
naked eye in quartz, it is not necessary in order to determine 
whether it contains gold or not. 

I do not know that any positive maximum of the amount which 
an engine can crush or not has been arrived at, but suppose it will 
be from half a ton to a ton to the single horsepower, carrying the 
necessary gearing and machinery. But one thing is certain, power- 
ful engines are more profitable than small ones, and I think that in 
a short time the small engines in the country will be abandoned, to 
be superseded by more powerful ones. Lest I be thought too prolix, 
I will bring this subject to a close, only observing that what I write 


or have written has been according to the best information I could 
obtain at the time. Since my first communication on quartz mining, 

1 have acquired more particular knowledge. It still continues to 
excite a lively interest in our State. Among other distinguished visi- 
tors to Grass Valley, General Atocha,- of whom you are cognizant, 
has made a tour of observation, and it gave me pleasure to afford 
him all the knowledge I possessed of mines and mining. I found him 
an intelligent and agreeable gentleman, with enlarged views and a 
mind capable of forming and carrying out great designs, and I have 
spent no time more agreeably in California than the two evenings 
and one day that we were together. I sincerely hope that the result 
of his investigations may prove profitable both to himself and 
Mexico. Ex-Governor Blanshard, of Vancouver Island, 3 and Cap- 
tain Fanshawe, of the British Navy, 4 were here at the same time, and 
all seemed delighted with their visit. It is a pleasure to meet gentle- 
men of any nation. 

The Sierra Nevada Quartz Mining Company, of which I have 
spoken in a former communication, have sold out their mine to Dr. 
J. Delavan, the agent of the Rocky Bar Company, 5 and he is erect- 
ing machinery and driving ahead with characteristic Yankee energy. 
— Some of the mills have taken out eight hundred to a thousand 
dollars per day, though this must always vary according to the 
quality of the rock and other circumstances; some days more, some 
days less. 

A. Delano. 

2 Colonel A. J. Atocha was the personal representative of General Antonio Lopez de 
Santa Anna in the U. S., 1846-1848. Wilfrid H. Callcott, Santa Anna (Norman, Okla- 
homa, 1936), 230, 248, 262. 

3 Richard Blanshard, first governor of Vancouver, left the island August 27, 1851, to re- 
turn to England. Bancroft, History of British Columbia, 1792-1887 (San Francisco, 
1887), 265-282. 

4 Edward G. Fanshawe (1814-1906), captain, Royal Navy, 1845; rear admiral, 1863; 
lord of the admiralty, 1865; vice admiral, 1871; K. C. B., 1881. Dictionary of National 
Biography, Second Supplement. 

5 Dr. James Delavan. Sacramento Placer Times, November 24, 1849. The Rocky Bar 
Company was "memorable as the first of its class to mine on a large scale in the pockets 
of Eastern investors." Pen-Knife Sketches, xiii. 



Shasta City, October 20, 1851. 1 

The air was bracing but not cold when at sunrise on the morning 
of the 4th, I took a seat with the driver on the box of the stage for 
Shasta City, whose locale is among the foothills and at the very 
southern base of that rugged broken range of mountains which 
stretch from the extreme northern end of the Valley of the Sacra- 
mento through to Oregon, and thence in wild and solemn grandeur 
through the British and Russian possessions in North America, and 
interrupted only by the narrow Strait of Behring into Asia. Cross- 
ing the Sacramento as we left town, we were soon gaily rolling over 
the bosom of the broad Valley, with the bold dark outline of the 
Coast Range looming up on the west, and on the east the Sierra 
Nevada with its broad foothills seemed gradually to rise till at a 
great distance it blended with the sky like sombre clouds without 
indicating its own extreme altitude, still presenting a prominent and 
vivid component part in the charming view. Occasionally we were 
driving along the banks of the river through groves of evergreen oak 
and then launching out into a tule swamp miles in length, over- 
flowed by the river in flood seasons, making a large lake, when about 
eleven o'clock we reached the city of Fremont, our first change. 2 
This important town is situated near the confluence of Rio de las 
Plumas (Feather River) with the Sacramento, and stands an ex- 
ample of the speculative energy of the Calif ornians of '49. Like 
every other town on a navigable stream it is at the head of naviga- 
tion, though steamboats do run an hundred miles above. It contains 
about forty houses, twelve of which are occupied by families; the 
others are to rent on easy terms to any who would like a quiet nook 
far from the noise and bustle of the city. In the fall and winter of 
'49 it possessed extensive water privileges, for during the overflow 
the communications between the houses was by means of boats, and 
an acquaintance of mine who was the wealthy proprietor of eight 
hundreds lots in the city assured me the fishing on them was ex- 
cellent. For any person desirous of making a permanent investment 
an excellent opportunity is offered here. 

Leaving Fremont with its reminiscences, we drove along the 
Sacramento for a few miles, when our road launched out upon the 
plain, where for fifty miles there was no water, only in wells dug at 

1 True Delta, December 7, 1851. 

2 A town across the Sacramento River from Verona (formerly Vernon). Fremont was 
founded in 1849 and abandoned not long after Delano's visit. H. E. and E. G. Rensch 
and Mildred B. Hoover, Historic Spots in California: Valley and Sierra Counties (Stan- 
ford, 1933), 535. 


intervals of eighteen to twenty miles, and where much of the way 
the tules and vegetable mould indicated submersion in flood season, 
making it by no means a desirable location for the biped creation. 
The plain was dotted with large herds of elk, antelope, and deer 
which in seeming security scarcely moved beyond gunshot from us, 
barely raising their heads with curiosity as we passed, as if to en- 
quire what the devil we were doing on their stamping ground, while 
we on our part were smacking our lips with the poetic thought of a 
broiled steak from their haunches. About sixty miles above Sacra- 
mento City, between the Sacramento and Feather rivers and about 
midway of the plain, rises a strange, queer, isolated old mountain 
called the Buttes, 3 that looks as if it had been one of the hills which 
the fallen angels had used for ammunition in Milton's Paradise 
Lost. There it stands, where the Valley is twenty miles wide on 
either side, lifting its bare, craggy, misshapen, undescribable brown 
peaks two thousand feet towards heaven, baring its rough brows to 
the elements, its furrowed and rent sides attesting the power of time 
and might of the Almighty, and a beacon to the bewildered traveler 
on the plain. It is one of the strange things of California which defies 
my power of description, and the only way I can get at it is to leave 
a blank thus, 

and let you fill it with an artist's pencil to suit your own imagining. 
As the sun disappeared behind the dark hills of the Coast Range, 
his rays still shone brightly on the high crest of the Buttes, and it 
seemed as if twilight was approaching before the old mountain gave 
up the contest for light and fairly bade us good night. A little after 
dark we were sitting down to a glorious supper at the city of Colusa, 
a thriving capital of just twelve houses, beautifully situated on the 
west bank of the river and of course at the head of navigation — that 
is, for steamboats that don't run higher. Adjoining the town is a 
large village of Indians. 4 1 was strolling along the river by starlight 
after having discussed a savory elk steak, when I was startled by an 
unearthly yell, a sound of lamentation from the direction of the 
Indian village. Curious to know the cause of this sudden outcry, I 
bent my steps in that direction. Before every lodge were seated 
several women and children who were piteously lamenting with tears 
of grief coursing down their cheeks, while in groups the men sat 
silent or talking in subdued tones, and I never saw a whole com- 
munity who seemed more grief-stricken than these untutored and 
naked savages. An old warrior replied to my enquiry by informing 
me that five of their men had accompanied a gentleman of Colusa 
to the mines to dig for gold. Four of them had set out on their return 

3 Sutter Buttes, Colusa County. 

4 Wintun Indians. Kroeber, Handbook of the Indians of California, 351-390. 


alone, when they were assaulted by the mountain Indians and two 
of them killed; the others, making their escape, had just arrived with 
the sad intelligence. With them it was a national calamity and their 
grief was as sincere as it was touching. And death was rife among 
them. Supported in the arms of three or four squaws a woman was 
dying. The death rattle was in her throat, and before morning she 
too was numbered with the dead. All night long the wailings were 
continued, and as we left early the following morning we observed 
a large circle of squaws dancing a slow and measured tread around 
the body of their departed sister. May the Great Spirit be propi- 
tiated and the soul of the poor savage be made happy according to 
its capacity. 

Our nearest approach to the Coast Range was probably not 
nearer than fifteen miles. We could see that a range of lesser but 
rugged hills extended along the base of the main range with appar- 
ently a valley between them, but from this the mountains seemed to 
rise in broken and abrupt masses to a great height, more like the 
Sierra, from the desert on the eastern side of the snowy mountains. 
They appear too broken to admit of a wagon road, and only here 
and there show signs of vegetation, but up to this time it is a sealed 
and mysterious country opening a new field of enterprise and of toil 
to some future explorer. All I could learn was that a party of men 
had once attempted to make explorations. They were gone from 
home six days, had ascertained that gold existed in the hills, that 
there were fine valleys with beautiful streams flowing through them 
and an abundance of magnificent pines, but that the country was 
inhabited by bold and warlike tribes who were hostile and treacher- 
ous and that an ingress among those lofty hills was attended with 
difficulty and danger. 5 But the time will soon come when the atten- 
tion of the indomitable Yankee will be diverted from the eastern 
mountains towards the West, and then the tales of suffering, of toil 
and blood, of savage warfare and Christian cupidity, will find a 
locale in the broad, broken belt between the Pacific Ocean and the 
Valley of the Sacramento. As we approached the termination of the 
Valley towards the close of the third day, the ground became more 
uneven, and near Red Bluff we entered the foothills which were the 
stepping stones to the united ranges of the Coast and Sierra Nevada 
mountains. On the left were the lofty, rugged peaks of the Coast, 
before us the Trinity and Sacramento mountains stood out in bold 
relief, and on the east and north the Sierra was surmounted by the 
snow-clad points of Lawson's Peak and Shasta Butte, the latter ris- 
ing like a white cloud an hundred and twenty miles distant, attain- 
ing the immense altitude of thirteen thousand feet. G The road be- 

5 The Lassik Indians inhabited Mendocino County. Ibid., 143-144. 

6 Mount Shasta is actually 14,161 feet high. 


came more broken, the hills higher, till at dark we arrived at Shasta 
City, the extreme point attainable by wagons in this direction in the 
mountains. Beyond this, mules alone can thread the narrow and 
intricate passes of the hills, and the constant arrival and departure 
of large pack trains with supplies for thousands of miners in that 
isolated country gave the town an appearance of life and bustle 
quite unexpected. 

Here the stores were well filled with merchandise, the hotels 
afforded comfortable quarters and their tables were loaded with not 
only the comforts but the luxuries of California, and the dream of 
hardship is only to be realized in the mountain country beyond. 
From this point northward it is necessary to go with some show of 
force and to keep a constant guard at night to prevent attacks from 
the Indians, and during the day it is not safe to leave the train even 
for a short distance. Yet an hundred and fifty miles north of Shasta 
City is a rich valley, thirty to fifty miles long by three to five wide, 
taking its name from the gigantic Butte at its head and affording a 
local habitation, even in this distant and isolated region, for another 
town of five hundred houses, called Shasta Butte City. 7 Would you 
believe it that such a town exists in this remote region? It is even so. 
Supplies are brought by mules from the south, while on the north a 
very feasible wagon road is opened to Oregon City, from whence 
supplies are also drawn; so that a communication is now open 
through the wildest imaginable country from California to Oregon. 
The geography of the Cascade Mountains is no longer a mystery, 
and the rivers are explored, rich valleys are found, and their cultiva- 
tion already begun. The northern Indians are a larger, more intelli- 
gent and more warlike race than those of California. They wear 
clothes and live in log or wood dwellings and are very ingenious in 
many articles of domestic manufacture, while a portion of their 
country is valuable for agricultural purposes. 8 

In the neighborhood of Shasta I observed vast quantities of auri- 
ferous quartz, more than can be exhausted in hundreds of years, and 
I also saw many specimens which were brought in from Shasta Butte 
City, from Scott and Trinity rivers and their affluents, indeed in all 
directions, north and eastward, for an hundred miles or more. The 
imagination can scarcely stop at estimating the amount of mineral 
wealth still existing undisturbed in its matrix in the northern moun- 
tains; yet, while it is there, men will not stop to calculate the ex- 
pense, the difficulty and hazard of life in obtaining it. 


7 Now Yreka. Gudde, California Place Names. 

8 Battles between the whites on the one hand and the Shasta, Pit River, Rogue River, and 
Modoc Indians on the other were fought from 1851 on, culminating in the bloody Modoc 
War of 1873, which cost the lives of eighty-one whites and uncounted Indians. After this 
the Indians remained on reservations assigned to them. Caughey, California, 383-386. 



Parkman, Ohio, June, 1852. 1 

Eds. True Delta — My last communication was from Grass Valley, 
California, dated, I think, in February. I do not know whether it 
reached you or not, but it was my last from the land of gold. 2 On 
my arrival at home, I became fully aware of the vastness of the 
throng which is hurrying on to distress, to misery, and immense 
suffering by a headlong journey across the plains. If a true repre- 
sentation of the condition of California would have any effect in 
preventing individual suffering, the readers of the True Delta would 
be benefited, for your columns have set forth these things in their 
proper light always, and to me it seems strange that people should 
become so infatuated as to rush into dangers with eyes wide open. 
California is indeed a great country, with a beautiful climate and 
fertile soil, and in this last particular I have been compelled to 
change my early opinion. 3 And gold is there in such quantities that 
I do not believe that the labor of a century can exhaust it. But be- 
cause such is the fact, do not let any man say, "If it is there, I can 
get it." There are difficulties in the way which are insuperable. 
There are just as smart men there who are as industrious, as ener- 
getic and prudent, as the best who are now on their way. Three 
years' experience proves that where one of these energetic men is 
successful, hundreds are scarcely making a living. From the com- 
mencement to the present moment the continual cry of "new dis- 
coveries — rich diggings," has been brought to the public eye, and 
how many have been successful? Not one tenth part of those en- 
gaged in mining, and those are mostly of that class of men whose 
nerves and sinews are braced to stand the severe labor by practice 
from childhood. Thousands of those who cannot endure the labor 
of the mines, or who have been unsuccessful, have returned to the 
Valley and are exercising the various trades and professions to 
which they were accustomed at home, so that every trade is over- 
represented, and profits are cut down to a living business — in many 
instances scarcely affording that — and before I left, hundreds were 
unable to obtain employment for their board. And when you add 
fifty thousand souls to those already there, the number of helpless 
ones will increase rather than diminish. 

1 True Delta, June 23, 1852. The editor writes: "The following interesting letter from a 
gentleman whose former contributions to the columns of the True Delta, from California, 
excited much attention, will not be without interest at this time, when the tide of emigra- 
tion is again rapidly setting towards the modern Ophir." 

2 Apparently it was not received. 
3Cf. p. 21. 


There may be five thousand farms opened in California this sea- 
son, perhaps more, and next year double that number. Farming at 
this moment is profitable, but will it continue so to the end of time? 
When I first went there, all our vegetables were brought from the 
Sandwich Islands, Australia, and Oregon, and a small part from 
Spanish America, and the prices were exorbitant. 

Now California raises her own vegetables, or nearly so, and in 
such abundance that prices have fallen almost immeasurably. For 
instance, in 1849-50 potatoes sold in San Francisco from twenty to 
thirty cents per pound. These were brought from abroad. Now they 
are sold, of a superior quality and raised at home, at from three to 
five cents. Importation has virtually ceased. Flour is still imported, 
but in one year California will raise wheat enough for home con- 
sumption; in two there will be a surplus, and with no outlet prices 
must fall so much as to reduce farming to a mere living profit. The 
soil of California is capable of producing a greater amount than 
that of our Western prairies even. Sixty and eighty bushels of wheat 
to the acre is common. I have many statistical items in my posses- 
sion attesting its agricultural capacities, and you know my early 
opinion was at antipodes with this. Now all this in political economy 
is well, and speaks well for the capacity of the State; but when we 
reflect that beyond home consumption the market will be limited, 
the natural inference is that farming in a short time will be no more 
profitable than other kinds of business. And those who cannot work 
cannot live. The immense emigration of this year 4 will probably 
keep the prices of provisions up for the season. They may, in fact, 
advance, while the price of labor will decline and thousands seek 
employment as they do now, in vain; but at the moment there is a 
surplus, which will be within the next two years, there will be no 
sale. The only business that I know of now that is not being over- 
done is lumbering. The mountains are accessible for wagons and 
railroads and can furnish the lumber which is now imported, and 
will do so as soon as the prices of labor and hauling are sufficiently 
reduced to compete with importing prices. The country is large 
enough and productive enough to support a dense population, and 
individual suffering would be less if it was filled up by degrees; but 
one great difficulty is, too many are rushing in at once before the 
way is sufficiently prepared for them. Now a limited number can 
cross the plains safely and with comfort if properly provided, but 
this year there are too many going at once. In addition to the stock 
actually required to draw the wagons on the road, a large number of 
cattle are being driven for market. They will generally reach the 
Rocky Mountains in safety — that is, there will be grass enough to 
sustain the cattle. But immediately on going through the South Pass 

4 The climax of the Gold Rush may be dated 1852, when more than 100,000 went to 
California. Bancroft, History of California, VII, 696. 


the desert country commences, grass will be difficult to obtain and, 
I believe, impossible for so great a number. The consequence will 
be that the cattle of emigrant trains will die, and families will have 
a terra firma shipwreck, hundreds of miles from human aid. If they 
have money to duplicate their teams from droves, they may be parti- 
ally relieved; but very many will not be able to pay the California 
prices which will be asked, and they will be left to get along the best 
way they can, which will be on foot, or die. 

We shall probably receive as heart-rending accounts of the suffer- 
ings of the present emigration across the plains as any which have 
preceded it. After the emigration of 1850, such was the waste of 
property on the road that travelers from Salt Lake or between trad- 
ing posts in the region, where there was little or no wood, were 
scarcely troubled a single night to collect fuel to cook with, for the 
wagons abandoned and the furniture, handles of picks, shovels, 
axes, &c, &c, furnished them an abundant supply, and this will 
probably be the case after the present emigration has passed. 

I had intended to have spoken of the Nicaragua route in this 
communication, but it is already long enough. With my experience 
in crossing the plains I would rather take a family to California by 
the land route, provided the emigration did not exceed ten thousand, 
than through Central America, with the present facilities of travel- 
ing up the San Juan River and to San Juan del Sur. As it is, I would 
not risk their lives this year, either way. 

A. D 


Parkman, Ohio, August 1, 1852. 1 

The immense resources of California, as yet only partially de- 
veloped, afford to the political economist and to business men a 
fruitful theme of contemplation. Although there is now much in- 
dividual suffering and misfortune, the elements of prosperity are at 
work which, in an unparalleled short period in the history of na- 

1 True Delta, August 12, 1852. The superscription is a glowing valedictory, but no more 
than Delano deserved: "We have pleasure in publishing the following letter from one of 
the ablest correspondents it was our good fortune to secure in California in the early days 
of the gold discoveries. The writer, Mr. A. Delano, left Ohio [actually Illinois] among 
the first of the bold adventurers to the shores of the Pacific, and passed through the 
perilous trials which then beset those who heroically braved the dangers of flood and field 
in their exciting explorations. His letters to this paper were graphic, truthful, eloquent and 
patriotic, overflowing with generous sentiment and the spirit of manly independence so 
characteristic of the sons of the glorious West. Should he again return to California — and 
who that has once been there can long remain away? — we hope to hear from him fre- 
quently, as of yore, and shall always cheerfully and gladly give him a conspicuous place 
in the columns of the True Delta." 


tions, must place it among the most prominent States of the Union 
for wealth and extensive business operations. With a most prolific 
soil, a genial climate, with vast mineral wealth, the genius of the 
people only requires the fostering protection of a liberal govern- 
ment to develop these resources, and where public effort fails in 
many instances to carry out important ends, individual associations 
will not be wanting for their consummation. In a country so new as 
California, having so vast a field for varied enterprise, Government 
cannot at once effect all the facilities necessary for the transaction 
of the immense business carried on by its citizens; and the commer- 
cial world, but for individual association, would labor under im- 
mense disadvantages. The transmission of dust and coin from one 
extreme point to another, from the most distant mines over almost 
impracticable mountain roads to the Atlantic States, would be next 
to impossible, with certainty, by any Government provision. The 
merchant at home or in the cities along the Pacific seaboard might 
look in vain for remittances if dependent on Post Offices, and at 
isolated points the poor, toil-worn miner would live for months 
without the gratification of hearing from home or of sending a por- 
tion of his hard-earned gains to those who are dearer to his memory 
than life, were it not for the express companies which individual 
enterprise has established. These, in fact, have grown out of the 
necessity of the case, and by system, energy, and perseverance have 
grown into an important link in the great chain of commercial 

At first established for the speedy transmission of letters, money, 
and small packages from one important town to another along the 
principal roads and thoroughfares of the Atlantic States, by degrees 
they have spread, like the veins of the human system from the prin- 
cipal arteries, not only over the body corporate of our own country, 
but their fibres reach Europe, Asia — in fact, the whole civilized 
globe; and no country has felt their vivifying influence more than 
California. These connected links reach every mountain and dell 
where civilized man finds an abiding place. Almost every bar and 
diggings beyond the reach of mail arrangements has its connecting 
express line, and the glistening eye of the sunburnt miner, as through 
them he receives the missive of love from home, attests the estima- 
tion in which they are held in California. But for them, how many 
hearts would be sad — how many hopes disappointed! 

Why, I myself had toiled a year, suffering all that human nature 
could endure on the plains and in the mines, without hearing a 
single word from my family, and although they had written monthly 
by the mail, the first letter I received to tell me they were still alive 
was delivered into my hands by a mountain express. 2 To Califor- 
nians and those connected with them, this is a matter of infinite im- 

2 Cf. p. 42. 


portance, and a grand consideration is that of responsibility. No 
man likes to trust valuable packages to irresponsible hands, and it is 
a matter of public congratulation that companies of undoubted 
means, as well as of indomitable energy, are in existence. Livings- 
ton and Wells 3 are known among the successful pioneers of ex- 
presses, and I see by the public papers that they are extending their 
operations by association to California, under the name of Wells, 
Fargo and Company. These veterans of the Express are too well 
known for comment. Some of those connected with them I have 
known from childhood, 4 and I speak understandingly when I say 
that more energetic, faithful, and perfectly responsible men do not 
exist in any express company than these. They have commenced 
their California Express with an actual capital of three hundred 
thousand dollars, have contracted for the transmission of parcels 
with the U. S. Mail steamers, thus avoiding the possibility of delay, 
and they send a trusty messenger with every ship. Their arrange- 
ments for crossing the Isthmus are such that speed and certainty are 
assured, and drafts drawn by them are honored as surely as those 
of any bank in the Union. 

The ramifications of their express will extend to every mining 
district in California, as it does now to nearly every town in the 
Atlantic States; and the estimation in which they are held on the 
Atlantic will insure their success on the Pacific side of the continent. 
As an old miner, knowing the wants and feelings of that busy class 
of our California community, I most humbly wish them success. I 
sail on the 5th for San Francisco, and you will hear from me again 
as usual, from time to time. 5 


A. Delano. 

3 Johnston Livingston was associated with Henry Wells in an express business in New 
York State, 1845-1854, before the formation of Wells, Fargo and Company. Henry Wells, 
Sketch of the Rise, Progress, and Present Condition of the Express System (Albany, 
1864), 10. 

* Cf. p. 64. 

5 But this apparently was the last Delano letter published in the True Delta. 





Acapulco, Mexico, 64 

Across the Plains and Among the Diggings 
(originally Life on the Plains and Among 
the Diggings), xi-xiii, xv-xvii, xxiii, 1-2, 
4, 9, 12, 16, 19, 22-23, 25-26, 31, 38, 42- 
43, 62,64, 74-75, 106, 119 

Admission Day, 86-87, 93 

Albion, Michigan, 89 

Alciope, a ship, 71 

Allgeier, Nicolaus, 44 

Allingham, John T., 100 

American River, 55, 132 

Amsterdam, 42 

Angle and Company, 74 

Angle, Dr. M. B., xiv, 74 

Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biog- 
raphy, 27 

Armstrong family, 68 

Asheville, North Carolina, 20 

Ashley, William H., 75 

Asia, 29, 56, 138, 145 

Atocha, General A. J., xxi, 137 

Auburn, California, 120 

Auburn, New York, xxx 

Aurora, New York, xi, xxi-xxii, xxiv, 16, 
64, 142 

Australia, 81-82, 106, 118-119, 125-126, 

Bacon, James, 43, 69 

Baker, Captain, 7 

Baldwin, Elmer, 42 

Bancroft, Hubert H., xxiv, 16, 20, 47, 55, 

66, 71, 75, 104, 108, 119, 137, 143 
Barry, Captain John, xix, 103-104 
Bean, Edwin F., xxiv 
Bear Creek, 43-44 
Beardstown, Illinois, 2 
Bear River, 55, 71, 113, 131 
Bear Springs, Idaho, 65 
Beckwourth (or "Beckwith"), James P., 

xvi, 75-77 
Beckwourth Pass, xvi, 75 
Bedford Company, 86 
Behring Strait, 138 
Benicia, 36, 132 
Bensley, John, 42 
Benson, Ivan, 102 
Benton City, 16 
Benton, Senator Thomas H., 16 

Bible, 35, 39, 42, 105, 111-112 

Bidwell Bar, xv, 22, 32, 40, 77 

Bidwell, John, 32 

Billinghurst, Mr., 34, 85 

"Black Bart" (Charles C. Bolton), 2 

Blackfeet Indians, 75-77 

Black Hills, 75 

Blanshard, Richard, xxi, 137 

Boase, Frederick, 132 

Bolton, Charles C. ("Black Bart"), 2 

Boonville, Missouri, 6 

Boonville (Missouri) Observer, 70 

Boston, 71, 103, 107 

Brenham, Charles J., 127 

Broderick, David C, 125 

Brown, Mr., of Chicago, 85 

Brown, Robert, xii, 4, 6, 32, 69, 100 

Bryant, Edwin, 27, 31, 37, 41, 54, 85, 109 

Buchanan County, Missouri, 8 

Burch, Charles H., 55 

Burns, Robert, xii, 42, 59, 62, 67 

Butte County, 82 

Byron, 42 

Calaveras County, 2 

California Farmer, xxiv 

Callcott, Wilfrid H., 137 

Campbell, Alexander, 127 

Campbell, Thomas, 1, 13 

Canton, 44, 48 

Cape Horn, 25, 44 

Cascade Mountains, 21, 29, 68, 120, 140- 

Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of 

Washington and Lee University, 19 
Catherwood, Frederick W., xxi, 132-133 
Caton, John D., 46, 51-52, 92 
Caton, Laura A. S., 52 
Caughey, John W., 7, 141 
Central America, xxii, xxiv, 25, 36, 44, 65, 

132-133, 143, 144, 146 
Central Pacific, The, xxiv 
Chagres, Panama, 36 
Chamisso, Adelbert von, 10 
Chapultepec, Mexico, 46 
Charleston, Maine, 82 
Chautauqua, New York, 32 
Chicago, 34, 57, 82, 85 
Chico, 47, 75 
Chile, 49, 115, 136 


China, 48-49, 63, 109 
Chinese, xix, 109-110 
Chipman, 31 
Clarke, H. K. W., 125 
Clear Creek, 47 
Cleland, Robert G., 93 
Clemens, Samuel L., 102 
Coast Range, 27, 56, 138-140 
College of the Pacific, 74 
Columbia College, 42 
Colusa, xxi, 139-140 
Colusa County, 139 
Conaway, Mary V., xi 
Concord, New Hampshire, 9 
Constance, a ship, xix, 103-104 
Cornyn, John H., 2 
Council Bluffs, Iowa, 8 
Crow Indians, 75, 77 
Cruthers, Owen, 128 
Crystal Palace, London, 115 
Cutting, Mr., 18 

Dane, G. Ezra, xi, xviii, xxv 

Davis, M. G., 36, 142 

Davis, Peter L., 20, 47 

Dawly, Mr., 37, 46, 79 

Dawlytown, xv, 22, 36, 38-40, 42, 53, 61, 

77, 79 
Dayton, Illinois, xii, xiv, 7, 9, 13-14, 43 
Dayton, Ohio, 3 
Dean, Edwin F., xxxiv 
Deer Creek, 16, 20, 113, 131 
Delano, Alonzo ("Old Block") — 

pronunciation of surname, xi-xii 

appearance, xi 

birth and family, xi 

early career and marriage, xi 

voyage to St. Joseph, Missouri, xii-xiii 

overland journey, xiii-xiv, 12-27 

in the upper diggings, xiv-xxv, 22-98, 
111-116, 120-123, 131-137 

at Sacramento and San Francisco, xviii- 
xxi, 99-112, 117-120, 123-130 

Shasta City, xxi, 138-141 

Nicaragua and New York, xxi-xxii, xxiv 

Ohio, xxii, 142, 145 

publications, xiii, xxiii-xxiv 

second marriage and death, xxv 
Delano, Austin, 64 
Delano, Columbus, xi 
Delano, Fred, xi-xii, xix-xxi, xxiv, 16, 22, 

46, 105, 109, 117, 131 
Delano, Dr. Frederick, xi, 64, 67 
Delano, Harriet, xi-xii, xix-xxi, xxiv-xxv, 

16, 22, 46, 64, 105, 109, 117, 131 

Delano, Hariett, 64 

Delano, Joanna Doty, xi, 64 

Delano, Joel A., xi, 64, 67 

Delano, Maria Harmon, xxiv-xxv 

Delano, Mary Burt, xi-xii, xiv-xv, xix- 
xxi, xxiv-xxv, 10, 16, 19, 21-22, 46, 64, 
89, 105, 109, 111, 117, 131 

Delano, Mortimer F., 64 

Delano, California, xi 

De La Noye, Jonathan, xi 

Delavan, Dr. James, 137 

Derby, George Horatio, xviii, xxv 

Dictionary of American Biography, xxii, 
15, 32, 46, 75, 125, 133 

Dictionary of National Biography, 137 

Donner Pass, xxiii 

Dunning, Lola, 82 

Dunning, Zophar, 82 

Eliza, 43, 69 

Elliott, 80-81 

Embassy, a steamboat, 2-3 

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 81 

Encyclopedia Americana, 2 

England (see Great Britain), 132, 137 

English Grove, Missouri, 12 

Enterprise, 38, 92 

Erie, Pennsylvania, 42 

Europe, 48-49, 63, 145 

Fandango Pass, xiv 

Fanshawe, Captain Edward G., xxi, 137 
Fargo, William G., xxii, xxiv, 64, 146 
Feather River, xv-xvii, 16, 20, 22, 24, 32, 38, 

40, 43-44, 46, 52-53, 55, 58, 60-61, 64, 

67,69, 77, 81-84, 86-87, 92, 96, 105, 138- 

Ferguson, Milton J., xi 
Fires — 

Grass Valley, xxiii 

San Francisco, xviii-xx, 68, 117, 119, 

121-123, 128 
Fisher, Charles A., 19, 42 
Fletcher, Dr. Mary Delano, xii, xxiv, 16 
Floods, 41-42, 44, 106, 129 
Forbestown, 38 
Ford, Henry L., 55 
Fort Childs, 9 
Fort Hall, Idaho, 19, 65 
Fort Kearny, Nebraska, 9, 12, 13-15 
Fort Laramie, Wyoming, 19, 85 
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 8 
Foster, Stephen C, 34 


Fox River, Illinois, xii, 2, 74 

France, 98 

Fredenburg, Isaac H. ("Fred"), xii, 2, 4, 

6-7, 9, 13, 43, 68, 100 
Freeland, Captain John, xvi, 37, 46, 78-79 
Fremont, California, 138 
Fremont, John Charles, 47, 65 
Frenchmen, 75-76, 81-82 
Friendship, a ship, 103 
Fulton, Robert, 134 

Galveston, a steamer, 65 

Gibbon, Edward, 95 

Gibson, James, 128 

Gihon, John H., xviii-xix, 68, 117-118, 121, 

125, 127 
Gillis, James L., xii 
Gold Bluff, 107-108 
Gold Hill, 114 

Gold Lake, xvii-xviii, 89, 92, 97 
Gold Lake mountains, xvii-xviii, 97, 106 
Goldsmith, Oliver, xvii, 84 
Gold Tunnel, 113-114 
Goochland County, Virginia, 19 
Goodspeed Bros., 43 
Goose Lake, 18 
Grand Island, Nebraska, 15 
Grant, Colonel Joseph, xv-xvi, xix, 36-38, 

41, 44-45, 52-53, 69, 78-79, 85, 94, 96, 

99-106, 122 
Grant, Joseph, 36 
Grant, Joseph Osborn, 36 
Grant, Ulysses S., xi 
Grass Valley, xi, xix-xxii, xxiv-xxv, 16, 112- 

116, 120-121, 130-137, 142 
Grass Valley Telegraph, xxii-xxiv 
Grass Valley Union, xxv 
Gray, T. E., xvi, 65, 68 
Gray, Thomas, 53, 127 
Great Britain (see England), 118, 125, 137- 

Greeley, Horace, 96 
Green, George, 74, 112, 117 
Green, Jesse, xi, 7, 9, 14, 43, 68, 74, 111, 

Gregory, Winifred, 36 
Gridley, Samuel B., 42 
Gudde, Erwin A., xi, xvii, 43, 89, 141 
Gum, Mr., 129 
Gutierrez rancho, 71 

Hall, Dr. Josiah, 69, 117, 119 
Hamilton, 100 
Handy, 89 

Hanna, Phil T., 22, 37, 44 

Hardy, 96 

Harney's Landing, Missouri, 15 

Harney, William S., 15 

Harris, Matthew, xii, 12-14 

Haskins, C. W., 36, 65 

Hawaii (see Sandwich Islands) 

Hennepin, Illinois, 22 

Henry, Andrew, 75 

Henry County, Illinois, xvii, 85 

Herkimer County, New York, 42 

Hesperian, xxiv 

High Rock Canyon, Nevada, 17-18 

History of LaSalle County, Illinois, 9, 42 

History of Nevada County, xxiii 

History of Sacramento, xviii, 41, 100 

History of Santa Clara County, 20 

Hoes, Peter, 130 

Holland, Erholtz, 34 

Hollister, W. B., 83 

Hoover, Mildred B., 138 

Hudson River Railroad, 133 

Hudson's Bay Company, 44 

Humboldt County, 20 

Humboldt (or Mary's) River, xiv, 16-19, 

22-23, 53, 79, 89-90, 119 
Hurlbut, Henry, 22 
Hutchings' California Magazine, xxiv 

Idle and Industrious Miner, The, xxiv 

Illinois River, xii, 2 

Illustrated History of Palumas, Lassen, and 
Sierra Counties, 16 

Independence Bar, xvii, xix, 88, 94, 98 

Independence, Missouri, 7-8 

Independent Company of Louisiana Vol- 
unteers, 77 

Independent Order of Odd Fellows, xii, 46, 

Indians, xiii-xiv, xvi-xvii, xx-xxi, 2, 5, 8, 11, 
14-15, 17, 22-23, 28, 38-39, 42, 47, 58, 
64, 68-81, 87-89, 96, 100, 108, 110, 123, 
129-130, 133, 139-141 

I.O.O.F., xii, 46, 52 

Irwin, William, 42 

Isthmus of Panama, 25, 36, 44, 65, 132- 
133, 146 

Japan, xix, 104, 110 
Japanese, xix, 104, 110 
Jefferson, Thomas, xix, 110 
Jenkins, John, 118, 125-126 
"John Phoenix" 

(see Derby, George Horatio) 


Johnson, William, 71-72 
Journal of Proceedings of the Grand Lodge 
of the State of California, xxiv 

Kansas River, 8 
Kearney, Nebraska, 9 
Kearny, Stephen W., 9 
Keefer, Mr., Ill, 129-130 
Kelley, Mr., 136 
Kendall, George W., 1 
Kern County, xi 
King, Captain, 69, 80 
King, Joseph L., 36 
Klamath Lake, 29 
Klamath River, 107 
Kroeber, A. L., 28, 68, 139-140 

La Salle County, Ilinois, 22, 42-43 

Lassen (or "Lawson's") Peak, 140 

Lassen ( or "Lawson"), Peter, xiv, 16, 20, 47 

Lassen Trail, xiv, 16, 20, 23, 53 

Lassen's (or "Lawson's") Settlement, xiv, 

16, 18-20, 27, 32, 43, 55 
Lassik Indians, 140 
"Lawson" (see Lassen) 
Leeper, David R., 82 
Lewis, Benjamin, 118 
Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings 

(see Across the Plains and Among the 

Little Nemaha River, 65, 117 
Little Volcano, 95-98 
Liverpool, 132 

Live Woman in the Mines, A, xxiv 
Livingston, Johnston, xxii, 146 
London, 115 
Long's Bar, 40, 68, 85 
Loo Choo (Ryukyu Islands), xix, 104 
Loring, Thomas, 69 
Louisville, Kentucky, 3 
Lynchburg, Virginia, xiii, 3-5 

McCauley, Hamilton, 119, 121, 124 

McDougal, Governor John, 119, 121, 124 

McKee, Irving, 14 

McMakin, G. S., 113 

MacMinn, George R., xxiv 

McNeil, William, 43, 68, 73-74, 117 

Maginnis, John, 36, 142 

Maidu Indians, xvi, xx, 28, 38-39, 47, 58, 

64, 68-74, 87-88, 96, 100, 110, 123, 129- 

130, 133 
Malays, 103 
Manila, 103 

"Mark Twain," 102 

Marshall, John, xix, 110 

Mary's River (see Humboldt) 

Marysville, xvi-xviii, 43, 61-62, 69, 82, 89, 

96, 101, 132 
Massachusetts Hill, 114-115 
Mazatlan, 75 
Memphis, Tennessee, 19 
Mendocino County, 140 
Merlin, a ship, 104 
Mexicans, xviii, 27-28, 47-48, 60, 62, 93, 

106, 137 
Mexican War, 1, 5, 9, 37, 42, 46, 68 
Mexico, 5, 48-49, 63-64, 75, 78, 115, 137, 

Miller, William, 42-43 
Milton, John, 130, 139 
Miners' codes and associations, xv, xvii, 

40-41, 49-50, 58, 63, 86-87, 93-94, 122- 

Mishawaka, Indiana, 43, 80, 82-83 
Mississippi River, 3 
Missouri River, xiii-xiv, 4, 6-8, 14-15, 22- 

23, 42, 131 
Modoc County, 141 
Modoc War, 141 
Monroe, New York, 46 
Montez, Lola, xxiii-xxiv 
Moore, William, 80-81, 83 
Morgan, Edwin B., xxii, 64 
Morrill, John, 9 

Morse, Dr. John F., 36, 74, 102, 122 
Mount Diablo, 120 
Mount Shasta, 140-141 
"Mud Hill," xv, 26, 34-37, 39, 45, 52-53, 

104, 106 

Nahl, Charles, xi 

Napa, 119 

Neal, Samuel, 47, 55 

Nebraska City, 9 

Nelson Creek, xvii, 94 

Nemaha Cut-off, xiv, 23, 65 

Nemaha River, 65, 117 

Nevada City, xx, 113-114, 120, 122, 128 

Nevada County, 82, 112 

Newark, Ohio, 7 

New Holland (Australia), 168 

New Lisbon, Ohio, 34 

New Orleans, xix, 36, 65, 102 

New Orleans California True Delta, 36, 74, 

New Orleans, a steamboat, 102 
New Orleans Times, 36 


New Orleans True Delta, xiii, xv, xix-xxii, 
xxv, 1, 36-37, 41, 44-45, 52, 60-61, 69, 
75, 77, 84-85, 88, 94, 96, 99, 101-102, 
105-106, 112, 123, 131, 134, 138, 142, 
144, 146 

New World, a steamboat, 102 

New York City, xxi, 44, 48, 84, 94, 111, 
115, 119, 132 

New York Herald, 36 

New York Times, xxiv 

New York Tribune, 96 

Nicaragua, xxi-xxii, xxiv, 144 

Nicolaus, California, 44, 55 

Nisbet, James, xviii-xix, 68, 117-118, 121, 
125, 127 

Norton, William, 82 

Octavia, a ship, 36 

"Old Block," Delano's pseudonym, xi, xxiii- 
xxv, 109, 120 

Old Block's Sketch Book, xxiv, 105 

Oleepa, an Indian chief, xvi, 69-70 

Oleepa, an Indian village, xvi-xvii, xix, 64, 
67-69, 105 

Olmstead, John, 1 1 1 

"Olos" (Indians), 87-88 

Oregon, xviii, 8, 17-18, 22-23, 29, 49, 63, 
68, 95, 98, 138, 141, 143 

Oregon and California Trail, 23, 141 

Oregon Bar, 40 

Oregon City, 141 

Oroville, xv, 26, 34, 36 

Osman, Moses, xiii, 1, 21, 81, 108, 117 

Osman, William, xiii, xix 1, 5, 16, 21, 35, 
64, 81, 89, 94, 108, 117 

"Ottawa Bar," xv, 38, 40, 46, 52, 58, 73 

Ottawa, Illinois, xii-xiii, xv, xix-xx, 1-4, 6, 
9, 12, 19, 42-43, 46, 65, 68-69, 83, 89, 
99, 100, 111, 130 

Ottawa (Illinois) Free Trader, xiii, xvii, xix- 
xx, xxii, xxv, 1, 8, 12, 15-16, 19, 21-23, 
26, 39, 42-43, 46, 64, 69, 80-81, 88-89, 
94, 99-100, 108, 111, 117, 119, 128-130 

Ottawa: Old and New, xii, 1-2, 7, 22, 42- 
43, 46, 52, 68-69 

Overland Monthly, 28 

Pacific, a steamer, 132 
Pacific Medical College, 74 
Panama, 25, 36, 44, 65, 132-133, 146 
Panama Railroad, 132-133 
Parkman, Ohio, xxii, 142, 144 
Past and Present of LaSalle County, Illi- 
nois, 7 

Patrick, Dr. Sceptre, 66-67 

Pen-Knife Sketches, xi, xviii-xix, xxii-xxv, 

9, 16, 87, 109, 120, 137 
Periam, 82, 84-85 
Peru, 115 

Peru, Illinois, xii, 2 
Peter Schlemihl, 21 
"Pikeys" (Indians), 87-88 
Pit River, xiv, 18, 120 
Placerville, 1 1 1 

Platte River, 9, 15, 22-23, 54, 75, 117 
Plumas County, 89 
Pomeroy, F. C, xiv-xv, 22 
Pope, Alexander, 122 
Pope, Mr., 68 

Potawatomi (or Pottawatomie) Indians, 14 
Pottawatomie County, Kansas, 14 
Potter, John, 47, 55 

Reading, Pierson B., 47 
Red Bluff, 140 
Reddick, Joseph, 68 
Reddick, William, 68 
Redding, 74 
Reed, Henry J., 42, 69 
Register of the General Assembly of Vir- 
ginia, 19 
Renfro and Company, 86 
Rensch, H. E. and E. G., 138 
Revolution, a steamboat, xii, 2 
Reynolds, Mr., 42 
Roberts, William H., 37 
Robinson, William, 128 
Rocky Bar Company, xxi, 137 
Rogue River, 141 
Rood, Walter D., 43, 69 
Roosevelt family, xi 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., xi 
Royce, Josiah, 28, 48, 93 
Russia, 138 
Ryukyu Islands, xix, 104 

Sacramento, xiii, xv-xvi, xviii, xx-xxi, 20-21, 

25, 27-28, 32, 35-37, 39-42, 44-47, 49-52, 
54-56, 63, 66-68, 93, 96, 99-102, 105, 
120, 122-123, 126-128, 132, 138-139 

Sacramento Democratic State Journal, xxiv 
Sacramento Placer Times, 137 
Sacramento Themis, 43 
Sacramento River, xiv, xix, 16, 18, 21-22, 

26, 41, 43, 53, 57-58, 102, 138-139 
Sacramento Transcript, xviii, 28, 36, 44, 

93, 103 
Sacramento Union, xxiii-xxv, 2, 16, 20, 36, 


47, 67, 122, 128 
Sacramento Valley, xiv, xvii, xxi, 3, 16, 20- 

21, 23, 26-28, 29, 31-32, 34, 37, 39, 41- 

44, 47, 52-56, 58, 61, 65, 77, 81, 83, 87- 

88, 90, 94-98, 106, 110, 120, 131-132, 

138-140, 142 
St. Joseph, Missouri, xii-xiv, xvii, 1-3, 6-10, 

13-15, 85 
St. Joseph Rpad, xiii 
St. Louis, Missouri, xii, 2-5, 7-9, 13, 65 
St. Louis (Missouri) Republican, 7, 85 
Salem, Massachusetts, xix, 103 
Salem (Massachusetts) Register, 103 
Salt Lake, Utah, 18, 144 
Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), 49, 63, 71, 75, 

San Francisco, xiii, xvi, xviii-xx, xxii-xxiii, 

6, 28, 39, 42-44, 48, 50, 63, 65, 68, 74, 

82, 100-110, 112, 117-128, 130, 132, 143 
San Francisco Alta California, 6, 19, 20, 

36, 39, 74, 102-103, 122, 125, 127 
San Francisco California Chronicle, 36 
San Francisco California Courier, xviii, 

xxiii, 109, 120 
San Francisco Call, 42 
San Francisco Chronicle, 127 
San Francisco Golden Era, xxiii-xxiv 
San Francisco Pacific Marine Review, 103 
San Francisco Pacific News, xix, 36, 110 
San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board, 

San Joaquin County, 20 
San Joaquin Valley, 47 
San Jose, 106 

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, xxii, 144 
San Juan River, Nicaragua, xxii, 144 
Santa Anna, General Antonio Lopez de, 

Santa Buenaventura rancho, 47 
Santa Clara County, 20 
Santa Clara Valley, 106 
Savannah, Missouri, 14 
Scott Mountains, 29 
Scott River, xxi, 141 
Shakespeare, xvii, 2, 13, 34, 38-39, 74, 84, 

101, 109 
Shasta Butte (Mount Shasta), 140-141 
Shasta Butte City (Yreka), xxi, 141 
Shasta City, xxi, 138, 141 
Shasta County, 47, 141 
Shinn, Charles H., 41 
Sierra Nevada Quartz Mining Company, 

xix-xxi, 114, 120, 129, 137 
Smith, Ebenezer, xii, 6-7, 9, 32, 69 

Solano County, 36 

Soule, Frank, xviii-xix, 68, 117-118, 121, 

125, 127 
South America, 49, 56, 63, 115, 133, 136, 

South Bend, Indiana, xii, 9, 14, 22, 43 
South Bend (Indiana) Register, 9 
South Bend (Indiana) Tribune, 9 
South Pass, Wyoming, 143 
Spencer, Mr., 44 
Springfield, Illinois, 74 
Squatter Riots, xviii, 28, 48, 60, 92-93 
Stadden, Dan, 69 
Starr, Bensley and Company, 42 
Stephens, John L., 133 
Stony Point, 79 

Stringtown, xv, xvii, 81, 84-85, 88, 92 
Stuart, James, 127 
Sumatra, 103 
Sutter Buttes, 139 
Sutter, John Augustus, xviii, xx, 28, 44, 47, 

75, 117 
Sutter's Fort, 16, 19-20, 21, 25, 55 
Sydney, New Holland (Australia), 81, 106, 


Table Mountain, 37 

Taylor, Colonel, 65 

Tecumseh, Michigan, 3 

Tehama County, 55 

Terre Haute, Indiana, 67 

Thompson, John, 128 

Thorn, Benjamin K., 2, 7, 43, 68, 100 

Townley, James, 129 

Trinity County, 29 

Trinity River, xxi, 29 

Truckee, xxiv 

Turner, S. K. (?), xvii, 85 

Tutt, Charles M., 9 

Ulster County, New York, 2 

U. S. Biographical Dictionary, 52 

Utica, New York, 46 

Van Buren, President Martin, 133 
Vancouver Island, 137 
Vernon (or Verona), 43, 138 
Vigilance Committees — 

Grass Valley, xx, 121, 130 

Sacramento, xx, 126-128, 130 

San Francisco, xx, 118-119, 121, 120-128, 
Von Hagen, Victor W., 132 


Wabash River, 66 

Wakeman, Captain Edgar, xix, 102 

Walsh, Esq., 115 

Warren, Ohio, xxiv 

Washington and Lee University, 19 

Washington, D. C, 95 

Watkins, Colonel Joseph S., xix, 19-20, 

Weaverville, 142 
Wells, Fargo and Company, xxii, xxiv, 64, 

Wells, Henry, xxii, xxiv, 64, 146 
Welsh, Captain Charles (?), xix, 104 
Willoughby, Dr. D. W. C, 39 
Wilson, Charles L., 43 
Wilson, James, 127-128 

Wind River Mountains, Wyoming, 65 
Wintun Indians, xxi, 139-140 
Wood's Bar, 38 
World's Fair, 115 

Yates, Captain John, 75 

Yateston, 64, 75, 100 

Yreka, xxi, 141 

Yuba City, 43, 69 

Yuba County, 89 

Yuba River, xv, xvii, 19, 22, 33-34, 39, 43- 

44, 55, 62, 68, 87, 113, 132 
Yubaville, 43 
Yucatan, 78 

Zeluff, Mr., 9 


310 copies, of which 298 are for 

sale, were printed by Grant Dahlstrom 

at the Castle Press in Pasadena, 

California, in December, 



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